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Buckeyes take second-half lead with rally, but cannot overcome cold-spell down the stretch

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — In a game of lengthy runs, No. 2 North Carolina saved the best spurt for last.

Jessica Breland scored 29 points and the Tar Heels held No. 18 Ohio State scoreless for more than nine minutes of the second half to take a 72-63 victory Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

“In the second half we showed them a zone, then matched up, and then we went back to a zone around the 8-minute timeout,” North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “That messed them up some.”

Breland, averaging 13.5 points a game, had 21 in the opening half as the Tar Heels (9-0) opened a 41-37 lead. Cetera DeGraffenreid added 14 points and six assists and Rashanda McCants had 10 points for North Carolina, which improved to 21-9 against the Big Ten and evened its record against the Buckeyes at 3-3.

Breland knew she was going to have a big game after her first long-distance shot of the night.

“It was that first 3-pointer,” she said. “After I hit that, I felt I could hit any shot on the court.”

Jantel Lavender had 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Buckeyes (6-2), who led 52-49 with 11:56 left before missing their next 12 shots from the field with six turnovers over a span of 9 minutes, 20 seconds. Star Allen added 12 points, Ashlee Trebilcock had 10 points and Samantha Prahalis had 13 assists.

The Tar Heels sealed the outcome with a 17-0 second-half run.

“When they went into that zone, we went into a few-minute lapse,” Prahalis said. “It only takes 2 minutes and the game can be flipped.”

Ahead 41-37 at the half, the Tar Heels pulled away at the outset of the second half. McCants hit a jumper before Breland scored on consecutive possessions, once on a baseline drive and then on a nifty pass from McCants to make it 47-37. They hit their first three shots of the half, while Ohio State missed its first four and had three turnovers over the opening three minutes.

Just as suddenly, the game swung the other way.

Prahalis had two breathtaking assists. On the first, she dribbled behind her back at midcourt to avoid a defender and then fired a no-look pass to Lavender for a layup. She then lobbed a court-length pass to Allen for a breakaway layup.

The Tar Heels went almost six minutes without a point as the Buckeyes ran off 13 points in a row — eight by Lavender.

“That’s the way we play,” Hatchell said. “At times we were really ragged.”

The teams traded baskets until the Tar Heels regained the upper hand as Ohio State suddenly went cold. The Buckeyes led 52-49 on Lavender’s basket with 11:56 left but then didn’t score until Trebilcock hit two free throws with 2:36 left.

“They went zone and we didn’t execute the way we needed to when that happens. It’s that simple,” Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. “Ball movement, ball reversals — it was just a mental block.”

Lavender said the Buckeyes needed to take the blame for the lengthy drought.

“I don’t think it was the zone, it was us,” she said. “We weren’t executing our offense very good and in transition that gave them baskets.”

McCants’ free throw and a reverse layup by Chay Shegog tied it at 52 with 10:51 remaining. Breland then hit a follow, Iman McFarland scored off an assist by Shegog, McFarland hit a layup and Breland popped in a 10-footer to make it 60-52 with 5:23 left. McCants then scored inside and after the Tar Heels hit two free throws the lead was 64-52 with under 3 1/2 minutes left.

Ohio State was 71-3 at home since the start of the 2004-05 season. The game was the first meeting between the teams since North Carolina won 75-67 on Dec. 18, 1980.

Hatchell wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the teams meet again — soon.

“We could see them again in the NCAA tournament,” she said.

Ohio State Postgame Notes

 No. 2 UNC was the highest-ranked team to play in Value City Arena since 1999 when Ohio State lost to No. 2 Purdue, 64-56, Jan. 26, 1999.
 Wednesday was the sixth meeting in the all-time series. UNC has won the last three, evening the series at 3-3.
 Jantel Lavender recorded her eighth double-double in as many games this season and the 21st of her career. She finished with 27 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
 The Buckeyes are now 16-5 when Lavender records a double-double.
 Lavender has scored in double figures in all 39 career games.
 Freshman point guard Samantha Prahalis dished out a career-best 13 assists. That mark is tied for fifth-place on Ohio State’s single game list.
 The last Ohio State player to have 10 or more assists in a game was Brandie Hoskins Nov. 21, 2005 against Eastern Kentucky.
 Ohio State is 6-1 at home this year and 71-4 since the start of the 2004-05 season. The Buckeyes are 98-8 all-time at home in the Foster era.
 The 29 points by UNC’s Jessica Breland tied a Value City Arena record by an opponent.

Postgame Quotes

Ohio State coach Jim Foster

On what happened to Ohio State’s offense when UNC went zone in the second half
“We didn’t execute they way we need to when that happens. It’s that simple. We need ball movement ball reversal. We need more productivity out of our guards.”

On all of the runs that took place during tonight’s game
“That’s the way the game is played today. It just is. The TV timeouts, the long stoppages of play I think if you looked in those four minute windows that’s where the runs are made.”

On Ohio State’s offensive run in the second half
“This team’s going to compete. Little bit technical but more mental when it comes to the zone offense. We have to have more productivity from our guards.”

Jantel Lavender, sophomore center
On the North Carolina’s zone defense
“I don’t think it was the zone that hurt us. I think it was us. We didn’t execute well. We weren’t getting our shots.”

On the game
“I’m always glad to have the lead and we were pumped up. I think we should have kept our enthusiasm up. I hate to lose. I really wanted to win at home.”

On what she learned
“I think we can learn as a team from this loss. We can learn to be a great team when we fight the whole game, to get the rebound, to make the 3-point shot when it counts and when we have the lead, to keep the lead.”

Samantha Prahalis, freshman guard
On the game
“We had a few minutes of lapse there and in a close game like this, you can’t have that. In two minutes, the game can be flipped. We need to work on a zone offense and no lapses.”

On what she learned
“I learned to be a team leader. In a big game and the crowd is crazy, the team looks to the point guard for leadership to see if she has her head up and I just want to be a good leader.”

Ashlee Trebilcock, senior guard
On the her shots doing the game
“I took some good shots, some rushed and some in transition. I realized I wasn’t looking at the basket when I was at the 3-point line so that’s something I need to work on.”

On the support of the student-athletes
“It was awesome and exciting to see our peers here. I’m grateful they were here. It’s important to support each other and that we go to their events.”

Star Allen, senior forward
On the game
“It was an intense game. We moved the ball and ran the floor well. We did everything we were suppose to do.”

On the support of student-athletes
“It was exciting to see other-student athletes here. It is important to support each other and it was good to see a lot of them here.”

Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina head coach
On overall game against Ohio State
“I was very impressed when we got here with the facility and the set up. It was a great environment tonight and Ohio State is going to get better. Their point guard will continue to get better and she put on a show in the first half. We sputtered at times, but we did some things that we needed to do. She (Jessica Breland) didn’t miss a lot and it was just a fun basketball game. I won’t be surprised that we see each other in the NCAA tournament.”

On offensive runs
“That’s how we play is on runs, but we had a bunch of turnovers. The tempo was in our favor the last four to five minutes of the game. I substituted a lot during the game and it was just a game of runs. We took a gamble with them shooting the 3-pointers, but we got rebounds to run down the clock a little bit.”

On defending Ohio State sophomore center Jantel Lavender
“We gave her different looks through out the game. I put in our seniors and I thought they could play the defense better. They got passes that Ohio State was feeding in to the lanes and it was a big difference.”

On Ohio State and Samantha Prahalis’ performance
“I think tonight made Ohio State a better team. They were having fun out there and they will get better as the season continues. Prahalis can flat out go when running that team and they just need to go with her. She played 40 minutes tonight with 13 assists and she makes them a better team. The fans love her and she is fun to watch.”