Senior forward scored 22 points as Ohio State moved into sole possession of first place in Big Ten
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Indiana executed its defensive game plan against Ohio State and slowed down Jantel Lavender. The Hoosiers just didn’t expect two of her teammates to score career highs.
Star Allen tied a career high with 22 points, Brittany Johnson set a career high with 18 points, and No. 20 Ohio State beat Indiana 79-67 on Sunday to move into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten.
Lavender, the league’s leading scorer with 21 points per game, finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds and only took seven shots for the Buckeyes (22-5, 13-3). She didn’t need to shoot much with Allen handling business on the inside and Johnson knocking down jumpers. Allen shot 9-for-15 from the field and Johnson made 6-of-10 shots, including 2-for-5 on 3-pointers.
“I think it makes it extremely easy knowing you can be confident in a post player slashing down the lane and being able to finish under the basket,” Lavender said. “Even with Brittany, I’m just confident in kicking the ball back to my teammates. I think that makes us a great team.”
Allen entered the game averaging just under 10 points per game, but Indiana coach Felisha Legette-Jack knew the senior was capable of hurting her team.
“You hold one great player down, the other one shows up,” Legette-Jack said.
Johnson started the day averaging just over six points per game, though she had scored in double figures her previous two games.
Ohio State is now a full game ahead of Michigan State and Purdue after the Spartans lost at Wisconsin earlier on Sunday. All three teams have two games left.
Ohio State coach Jim Foster said the Buckeyes weren’t worried about the other game.
“Other people, they have to do their job and they throw the minutiae at you, but we do a good job of focusing on what’s in front of us.”
It was Ohio State’s third straight win after back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Iowa.
Jori Davis scored 17 points, Amber Jackson scored 14 and Whitney Thomas added 10 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for Indiana (17-9, 10-7).
The Hoosiers ran out to a 23-13 lead midway through the first half, but a bank shot by Allen seconds before halftime tied the score at 33 at the break. Both teams shot 50 percent from the field in the first half. Foster was pleased that his team bounced back and made it a game.
“We learned early on this season that this team really plays hard when they get into that situation or circumstance,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen it before, several times. It doesn’t have an effect on us.”
Ohio State led 63-50 in the second half before Ashlee Mells banked in a 3-pointer and Thomas made another three 11 seconds later to make it 72-67 with a minute left. The Buckeyes made 7 of 10 free throws in the final minute to pull away.
Ohio State shot 56 percent in the second half and held Indiana to 34 percent shooting after the break. The Buckeyes outrebounded Indiana 38-31.
It was a disappointing result for Indiana, which has improved this season but lately has struggled to beat the elite teams in the league. The Hoosiers lost 71-65 in overtime on Feb. 12 at home against Michigan State, and lost 59-51 at Ohio State on Feb. 1.
“I thought we had all the pieces of the puzzle in place,” Legette-Jack said. “This was a great effort on our side. We competed with a great team.”
The win moves Ohio State into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten at 13-3 after Michigan State (12-4) lost at Wisconsin earlier Sunday.
The Buckeyes can clinch at least a share of their fifth-straight Big Ten regular-season title with a win over Wisconsin Thursday at Value City Arena. They can win the title outright with a win Thursday and a win over Penn State on Sunday. The Buckeyes are trying to become just the second team to win five-consecutive regular-season titles after Ohio State won a record five in a row from 1983-87.
Ohio State leads the all-time series with Indiana 44-20 and lead 14-4 in Bloomington. They have won 10 of the last 11 with Indiana and sweep the season series for the fifth time in the last six years.
The Buckeyes shot 56 percent in the second half Sunday after shooting 65 percent in the second half Thursday at Minnesota.
The Buckeyes trailed by 10 points in the first half and led by as much as 13 on three different occasions after halftime.
Ohio State has won 76 of its last 88 Big Ten regular-season games and 40 of its last 42 at home.
The Buckeyes are 18-1 this season when they make more free throws than their opposition and are 36-1 over the last two seasons when accomplishing that feat.
The Buckeyes made more free throws than their opponent attempted for the 12th time this season.
The Buckeyes are 18-1 this season when they outrebound the opposition. Their only loss was at now-No. 3 Auburn in overtime.
Ohio State is 4-0 this season when they shoot 50 percent or better from the field.
Head coach Jim Foster is 91-23 in Big Ten regular-season games at Ohio State and 174-45 overall.
The Buckeyes finished the regular season 8-3 on the road and 7-2 in Big Ten games after going 4-5 last season in conference road games.
Senior Star Allen tied a career-high with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting.
Sophomore Brittany Johnson set new personal bests with 18 points and six made field goals, including two from deep. Johnson has 42 points (14.0 ppg) and nine 3-pointers in her last three games.
Sophomore Jantel Lavender finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds for her 18th double-double of the season and the 31st of her career despite sitting out due to foul trouble for the second-straight game. The Buckeyes are 25-6 when over the past two years when Lavender gets a double-double.
Lavender has scored 10 or more points in all 58 career games, the fourth-longest active streak in Division I.
Lavender now was 1,104 career points and needs 91 more to break Katie Smith’s record of 1,194 points in her first two seasons as a Buckeye.
Freshman Samantha Prahalis dished out four more assists and now has 153 on the season. She is on pace to break Kim Wilburn’s Ohio State freshman record of 168 assists set during the 2002-03 season.
Prahalis finished with 10 points and is averaging 15.0 ppg over the last three games.
Junior Shavelle Little recorded three steals, her 14th game with three or more.