STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Ohio State center Jantel Lavender frustrated another opposing coach, an increasingly common occurrence for the talented freshman.
Lavender scored a career-high 36 points and grabbed 16 rebounds as the Buckeyes (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) moved a step closer the Big Ten title in an 87-84 victory over Penn State on Thursday night.
Lady Lions coach Coquese Washington wasn’t happy after the game.
“We’ll try something different next time,” Washington said. “We can’t guard her one-on-one, it was hard to guard her when we double-teamed her.”
Ohio State coach Jim Foster said Lavender played with patience. The approach paid off as Lavender fell one rebound short of her career high and tied her best with six assists.
“I rush a lot sometimes and today I was just like, ‘You know, calm down and just breathe,'” she said. “I felt it tonight. And I just knew that if I took my time the shot would be there and I would find my open teammates.”
Penn State’s school-record losing streak stretched to 10 games, though the Lady Lions hung close to the Buckeyes all night.
Lavender’s tough, running one-hander in traffic in the lane with 1:47 left gave the Buckeyes an 85-80 lead.
But she threw away the ball on an inbounds play with 14.7 seconds left to give the Lady Lions a final shot to tie. Kamela Gissendanner’s desperation 3-pointer went wide of the bucket with the clock winding down.
It wasn’t the play Washington drew up during a timeout before the last possession.
“My chicken-scratch on the board may have confused them a little bit,” she said.
Gissendanner, a senior, scored 25 points in her final home game. Janessa Wolff scored a career-high 16 and grabbed 10 rebounds off the bench for Penn State (13-16, 4-13).
Marscilla Packer had 18 points for Ohio State (21-7, 12-5 Big Ten) despite shooting 4-of-17. The Buckeyes, seeking a fourth straight Big Ten regular-season crown, can finish in no worse than a tie for the title if they win their regular-season finale Sunday against Northwestern.
The Buckeyes temporarily erased memories of a 69-61 overtime loss Monday to Indiana. Officials on Wednesday said there was a scoring error during the game that incorrectly gave Indiana a point for a disqualified free throw with 2:38 left in regulation.
Foster demurred when asked if Ohio State should look into the matter more given the possible ramifications for conference tournament seeding.
“We’re going to work at beating Northwestern on Sunday,” he said. “I’m not someone that thinks about the past too much.”
With 16 boards, Jantel Lavender set an Ohio State freshman record for rebounds in a season with 275, breaking the old mark of 260 set by Martha Baker in 1976. Lavender also upped her freshman record for field goals in a season to 210.
Lavender finished with a career-high 36 points, tied for fourth on Ohio State’s all-time single-game list. It also marked the most since Jessica Davenport scored 36 on Jan. 27, 2005 Davenport’s sophomore year.
Lavender, who also tied her career-high with six assists, extended her double-figure scoring streak to 28 games and recorded her 11th double-double of the season.
Lavender hit her first 12 free throw attempts and finished the game 12-of-14.
With the win, the Buckeyes will at least tie for their fourth-consecutive Big Ten regular-season championship with a win Sunday against Northwestern (2 p.m, Value City Arena). OSU can win the league title outright with a win and an Iowa loss to Wisconsin.
Ohio State has now won 62 of its last 71 Big Ten regular-season games.
The Buckeyes still have not lost consecutive Big Ten regular-season games since the 2003-04 season.
Ohio State has won the last nine meetings with Penn State.
The Buckeyes made 16-of-17 free throws in the first half and a season-high 24-of-27 (88.9 percent) for the game.
Marscilla Packer, who finished with 18 points, connected on three 3-pointers, the 13th time this year she has made three or more. Ohio State is 12-1 when she hits three or more from deep.
Packer passed Frani Washington (1978-80; 1,173 points) for 19th on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list. Packer now has 1,175 career points in 123 career games.
Maria Moeller came off the bench and recorded career highs with 11 points and three 3FG’s on as many attempts.
Tamarah Riley was the fourth Buckeye in double-figures with 10 points on 5-of-6 from the floor. She is shooting a Big Ten-best 63.9 percent in conference games.
Riley played in her 127th career game, three shy of tying Kim Wilburn (2003-06) and Jessica Davenport (2004-07) for the most all-time at 130.
Ohio State is now 15-3 this year when outrebounding its opponents, 18-2 when leading at the half, 17-0 when making more FT’s and 16-1 when scoring more points in the paint.
Jim Foster, Ohio State head coach
Q: What were you looking for defensively on Penn State’s last possession?
A: We liked our matchups. We liked Tam going up against Gissendanner. Because of the lineup they had in tonight, we weren’t able to get that matchup as much as we wanted. Then you’ve got to go put a lot of three-point shooters on the floor, which allowed us to matchup Tam with Gissendanner.
Q: Can you speak to Jantel’s efforts tonight?
A: Tonight, Shavelle and Ashlee were really banged up. They tried to go, but they really couldn’t, so we had to play zone. I was reading the woes from all these local writers about the Penn State shooting, and I knew, as we were sitting in that zone, that they were going to get better. But that’s what we had to play with. At the other end, I think we had patience and took advantage of opportunities. I thought Marscilla did not shoot well tonight, but when she got to the foul line she went 7 for 7 and took care of the ball, and made some timely passes to Jantel. I think Alison Jackson stabilized us and made some big baskets. You know you’ve got a freshman who is going to be a pretty good player when she’s got a senior running down the floor with her, and she waves her off and takes the shot herself. That’s a confident freshman, and so is Jantel. I thought our young kids did a very good job today in a situation that we really needed them to step up.
Q: Given the reputation that it could have on the Big Ten standings, do you think Ohio State needs to go back and look at that point from the Indiana game the other night?
A: We are going to work it by beating Northwestern on Sunday. I’m not someone who thinks about the past too much. We are just going to play Northwestern and go from there.
Q: Can you tell us about Gissendanner’s play? This is her last home game and you have probably seen enough of her I can imagine.
A: Yea I’ll be at graduation. I think she is a real good offensive basketball player. She’s got a game, and not a lot of people have got a game. Even though she is a player who predominantly likes to go right, she is crafty. She is an old fashioned player who uses ball fakes, and ball fakes are a wonderful attribute to have in today’s basketball because people like to leave their feet and play loose defense trying to block shots. If you are a ball faker, you get to the foul line a lot and you get a lot of great opportunities. She’s just a good player.
Coquese Washington, Penn State head coach
Q: How difficult was it to defend Lavender in this game?
A: Well, we just struggled to guard her. She is just a tough match up for us. I know there are other teams that have been able to do different things for us. But, it’s just a really hard match up for us. I don’t remember the stats she had from last game, but I’m sure she probably had a double-double against us. She is just one of those players that we struggle to keep her from scoring. So, we will try to do something different next time. We tried something different this game and it didn’t work. If we are fortunate to get to play them in the Big Ten tournament, we will try something else to see if that works. We cant guard her one on one, and it’s even hard to double team her. She makes pretty good plays even against the double team.
Q: Coach, were you pleased with the effort tonight, especially playing a good team like Ohio State?
A: I was very pleased with the effort. We fought for 40 minutes, which we haven’t done in a while. We had significant contributions from really five or six players. But the effort was there. The belief was there. We were 20 seconds away from going into overtime, and anything could happen in overtime. But overall, I am very pleased with how we competed. There are some things that we need to get better at. But the competitive fire was there for us to take this game.
Q: Could you talk about the last possession and what you were looking for and what you were looking for to open up?
A: We definitely were going for the three. We were going for the tie and go into overtime. I think my chicken scratch on the board confused them a little bit because we never got in the set that I wanted them to get in. We had three screens going, one for Briane, another one for Kam coming off, and a third one for Tyra. We got into it and I just think my coaching scribble may have confused them a little bit.