INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Marscilla Packer led Ohio State with 19 points in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal loss to Illinois Friday, 64-58, in Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Jantel Lavender and Tamarah Riley each had double-doubles with 14 and 13 points, respectively, and 12 rebounds a piece. The Buckeyes failed to reach the Big Ten semifinal for the first time in the 14-year history of the event.
Ohio State trailed by as many as 11 midway through the second half, but pulled to within a shot at tying the game on a 3-point attempt from Ashlee Trebilcock with less than 20 seconds to play.
The loss drops the regular season conference champion Buckeyes to 22-8 overall. Ohio State will await an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Rebecca Harris scored 22 points, Lori Bjork scored 14 points and Jenna Smith added 13 for the ninth-seeded Illini, who reached the semifinals for the first time since 2001.
“The seeding means nothing to us,” Harris said. “We know we can beat any of these teams because we’ve seen them already. If we were the underdog, then I guess it was an upset.”
Illinois will play either Minnesota or Michigan State on Saturday.
Illinois gained confidence by beating the Buckeyes 68-64 on Jan. 31 to split the regular-season series. The Illini have won three in a row under first-year coach Jolette Law, but know they need two more victories to clinch their first NCAA tournament bid since 2003.
“I tried to mute my celebration a little bit, trying to save energy for the next two games,” Bjork said.
Packer scored 15 of her 19 points in the second half for Ohio State (22-8). Lavender took just eight shots, which bothered Ohio State coach Jim Foster.
“I think we rushed at the guard positions and weren’t patient enough to take advantage of our post presence,” he said.
Smith said the plan was to keep the ball out of Lavender’s hands.
“Lavender is very strong, so we kind of sagged off the other posts and dared them to beat us,” she said. “With (Lavender), we just had to body-up on her and be real physical.”
Bjork made a 3-pointer to give the Illini a 54-43 lead with just over seven minutes to play, but Packer scored 11 points in four minutes, including a 3-pointer that cut Illinois’ lead to 58-54.
“Marscilla is that kind of streak player who can get unconscious and score a lot of points in a short amount of time,” Foster said.
Illinois led 60-57 and had the ball in the final minute, but Ohio State took possession on a steal by Packer. After a flurry of missed shots, the Buckeyes gained control and called timeout to set up with 21.5 seconds left and the shot clock off.
Ohio State’s Ashlee Trebilcock missed a 3-pointer, but teammate Riley was fouled on the rebound. She made the second of two free throws to trim Illinois’ lead to 60-58.
Bjork made two free throws with nine seconds left, then Harris made two more to provide the final margin.
Ohio State led 16-14 in the first half before back-to-back 3-point plays by Harris and Smith gave the Illini a 20-16 lead with 7:22 left.
Illinois remained in front until the final seconds of the first half.
The Illini had possession and a 27-25 lead when there was a scrap for the ball. Ohio State came up with it, and a Buckeye player threw a long pass toward the right corner. Alison Jackson barely caught up to the ball, but she gathered it and flung it toward the basket in a single motion. The 3-pointer banked in as time expired to give the Buckeyes a 28-27 lead.
Illinois’ 15-6 run to begin the second half stopped the momentum the Buckeyes had built.
Ohio State led the conference in scoring during the regular season, and Illinois topped the league in scoring defense. Illinois’ slower tempo and grind-it-out style won out against the Buckeyes.
“It was the pace we wanted,” Law said. “We knew they were going to come out and try to get their transition, and that was one of the keys — we had to stop their transition. The pace was in our favor tonight.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report