Lavender Leads Buckeyes In Sweep of First-Place Spartans
By Tony Gerdeman
All-American center Jantel Lavender
scored 24 points, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out five assists,
leading her team in each category, to pace the Buckeyes' (18-9, 9-6) upset
of #8 Michigan State (24-4, 12-3) 54-53 in East Lansing.
Lavender played all 40 minutes, and the
Buckeyes needed every last one of them. She finished 9-20 from the
field and 6-7 from the free throw line. Her final free throw with
1:50 remaining in the game proved to be the winning point for Ohio
Neither team shot over 40% for the
game. In fact, neither team even made it above 35% in the second
half. The game started out as an up-and-down affair, but quickly
turned into a defensive struggle between two teams with different
The Spartans were already
hanging a Big
Ten Championship banner on the night, but they were looking to clinch
sole possession of that championship. The Buckeyes, on the other
hand, were looking
to continue their four-game winning streak, and in the process show
the rest of the conference that they were all the way back from their
struggles earlier in the season.
With the game tied at 18-18 with 10:52
remaining in the first half, it appeared that both teams were headed
for an 80-point night. Then the defense picked up and the
offense dropped off. The Buckeyes lead 30-26 at the half. The
four-point difference tied the largest lead for either team in the
Ohio State opened the second half with
a quick basket by center Ashley Adams, giving the Buckeyes a
six-point lead. It was the largest lead for either team during the
game, and it was quite short-lived. Michigan State answered with a
three-pointer from Taylor Alton, who finished with six points and was
2-7 from behind the three-point line for the game.
A slew of offensive rebounds from
Lykendra Johnson and subsequent baskets by her teammates saw Ohio
State's lead become a deficit. An "and-one" situation with Kalisha
Keane put the Spartans up 36-35 with 16:51 to play.
Lavender answered with her own "and-one",
giving the lead back to the Buckeyes 38-36. Not to be outdone,
Cetera Washington scored layups three consecutive times down the
court, giving the lead back to the Spartans at 42-40 with 13:30
Tied at 42-42 with the shot clock
winding down, reserve senior Alison Jackson hit a turnaround jumper
from the elbow with 12:02 to play in the game. The basket gave the
Buckeyes a two-point lead. Michigan State would never get the lead
A layup by Samantha Prahalis with 8:28
to play gave Ohio State the 52-48 lead. It would be Ohio State's
final field goal of the game.
Kalisha Keane, who had earlier missed
part of the second half with a cut over her left eye, came back
strong with a layup to tie the game at 53-53 with 2:59 remaining. Keane was also fouled on her shot by Prahalis, who fouled
out on the play. Keane missed her free throw, however.
The Spartans were getting offensive
rebound after offensive rebound, including one that led to Keane's
free throw and Prahalis' fouling out. They finished the game with 17
Fouled by Lykendra Johnson with 1:50
remaining, Lavender made one of two free throws to give the
Buckeyes the 54-53 lead.
Michigan State had one final
possession, but outstanding defense from Amber Stokes made
Jasmine Thomas' last-second shot an erratic one. It bounced
harmlessly off of the backboard and rim, giving the Buckeyes the win.
“It came down to that last ten
seconds. We talk about defense all the time,” said Buckeye assistant coach Debbie Black,
referencing Stokes' defense at the end.
“I couldn't have been more
proud of anybody. She came to the bench a little while before that
for fouling on the same sort of play. But she stayed low and she
made that kid take the toughest shot that she could take.”
Perhaps most importantly, however,
after 39 minutes of questionable defensive rebounding, Ohio State
held the Spartans without an offensive rebound over the final minute,
which likely was the difference in the 54-53 outcome.
“It was a dogfight, and great games
are played like this,” Black said, speaking
to 1460 the Fan after the game.
“It's down and dirty. Now, if we
would've rebounded a little bit better, it probably wouldn't have
been a game, because 17 offensive boards kept this team in the game.”
The Buckeyes went eight deep against
the Spartans, and each one of those eight players played
double-figure minutes. This win would not have been possible without
different, and key, contributions from the bench.
“I think that everybody who came in
contributed,” Black said.
“[Martina] Ellerbe did a good job when
she was out there. Obviously Stokes did a great job. Alison Jackson
hit a big turnaround jumper. Those things in a 54-53 game are
really important. So I thought our bench did excellent. I think
people were ready to win.”
“It's really interesting because this
time of the year in previous years, we've already clinched the Big
Ten. Our sense of urgency might not have been there. I think now
every practice and every game becomes like the NCAA tournament. It's
preparing us for the next games ahead, and I don't think we've had
that kind of preparation. We've had a lot of different kinds of
games, and we found ways to win these games.”
Up next for the Buckeyes will be Senior
Day on Sunday. They close out the regular season at home against
third-place Wisconsin (15-12, 10-5) at 12:00 pm.
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