COLUMBUS, Ohio Behind 26 points from senior Marscilla Packer and 13 points and 14 rebounds from freshman Jantel Lavender, the 16th-ranked Ohio State women’s basketball team defeated visiting Marist, 63-57, Sunday afternoon at Value City Arena in the season opener for both teams.
The Buckeyes, who have now won their last 13 regular-season openers, led by as much as 18 points in the first half. But Marist fought back after halftime, shooting 60 percent from the field and cut the lead to two points, 56-54, with 1:46 remaining. But a big basket by Lavender and five-straight points by Packer sealed the win in the final minutes.
“This game will give us a lot of opportunity to teach this team and we are happy to pick up a win against a team like Marist,” head coach Jim Foster said. “They are a good team that will win a lot of games this year.”
Marist, who knocked off the Buckeyes in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in March, scored the opening basket 14 seconds into the game. But Ohio State used its defense and precise shooting to open a 10-point lead over the next four minutes. The Buckeyes forced four turnovers in the first five minutes of the game and didn’t allow Marist’s second field goal until the 13:52 mark of the first half.
The Buckeyes then extended their lead to 34-16 late in the second half when Lavender’s two free throws capped off a 12-2 run over a five-minute span. Ohio State led 34-19 at the half.
The second half was a different story, as the Red Foxes heated up. After hitting zero from long range in the first half, Marist hit 5-of-5 from 3-point range in the final 20 minutes to help cut into Ohio State’s lead.
But 14 second half points from Packer and key defensive stops by sophomore Shavelle Little and Lavender helped keep the Red Foxes at bay.
“I really like Shavelle Little’s defensive pressure,” Foster said. “She really has conditioned herself and plays great defense. Jantel Lavender is a really good player for us. She goes after the rebounds and has the mentality and attitude of a great rebounder.”
Packer hit four from downtown and made all eight of her free throw attempts. Maria Moeller finished the game with five points while Ashlee Trebilcock and Lesslee Mason-Cox each had four.
Little, who received her first career start, helped force 13 Marist turnovers while recording four assists and only two turnovers.
The Buckeyes hit 16-of-22 from the charity stripe and outrebounded the Red Foxes 39-25.
Marist was led by 12 points each from Erica Allenspach and Lynzee Johnson.
The Buckeyes will be back in action at 7 p.m. Wednesday night against Tennessee State at Value City Arena.