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Last updated: 03/27/2011 0:35 AM

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Women's Basketball
Volunteer Depth Too Much For Buckeyes
By Tony Gerdeman

Jantel Lavender and Samantha Prahalis combined for 41 points against #1 seed Tennessee (34-2), but it wasn't enough as the Volunteers eventually wore down the #4 seed Buckeyes (24-10) and came away with an 85-75 victory. The win puts the Lady Vols in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Ohio State shot 50% from the field for the game, but only 39.5% in the decisive second half. Tennessee also outrebounded the Buckeyes 46-29, including 20-5 on the offensive glass, and outscored them 17-3 in second chance points.

The Buckeyes started the game well enough, as the two teams went toe to toe at the outset. Reserve center Kelley Cain started for just the 18th time this season, and she absolutely made it count. She scored the first six points for the Vols, and played the role coach Pat Summitt had in mind all along.

“We knew in practice that we wanted Kelley," Summit explained.

"We had to have a post player that had a presence that could battle, and she stepped up. We knew that Lavender was gonna be huge, and the only person that we felt like could step in there and match that size and skill set was Kelley Cain.”

Ohio State and Tennessee traded baskets for the majority of the first half. Neither team grabbed more than a four-point lead until Prahalis sank two free throws to push a Buckeye advantage to five at 26-21. The Vols then immediately went on a 4-0 run to cut the lead back a single point.

Ohio State answered with a 4-0 run of their own to recapture their five-point margin, but again the Vols came right back, tying the game at 31-31.

The Buckeyes would then hit three three-pointers over the next three minutes to get a 42-36 lead with just 1:17 remaining. And, as was the case for the entire game, Tennessee again answered back by closing strong with a 4-0 run, capped by a Shekinna Stricklen jumper at the buzzer to make it a 42-40 game. Even though the Buckeyes led, any momentum they had planned on taking into the half was gone.

The Vols came out of the second-half gate with the intention of running the Buckeyes out of the game, and they eventually succeeded. Ohio State took ill-advised quick shots to start the half, and on three of their first four possessions of the half, Tennessee beat the Ohio State defense down the court for layups. That enabled them to take a 48-46 lead. The Vols would never relinquish that lead.

“We just got away from what was being successful,” coach Jim Foster said.

“We started taking quick shots on inbounds plays. I thought we got into a quick-shot mode. It was probably the emotion of the game, the significance of the game, etc. When we executed our offense and moved the basketball, we got terrific shots. They had to play defense longer and they couldn't get the runouts. When you take quick shots, it gives the opportunity to run presenting itself more often. It wasn't really smart on our part. I thought for 33 minutes we played sound, smart basketball. And for seven minutes we didn't. That seven minutes really cost us.”

Despite a tremendous effort from Brittany Johnson, the Buckeyes just couldn't get over the hump. When Tennessee was up 56-52, she hit a three to stop a Volunteer run. When it was 63-57 and looking like the end, she hit another three to keep her team in it, but it just wasn't enough.

The Vols would quickly turn their three-point lead into a nine-point lead, and from there the outcome was inevitable. The Buckeyes never quit, but they just couldn't keep Tennessee off the glass. Even when they would play solid defense for 30 seconds, the Vols would get a shot up and get the offensive rebound. It was a never-ending cycle for the Buckeyes, and clearly did them in.

Cain ended up scoring 16 points in just 21 minutes of play. Stricklen led the Vols with 20 points on the afternoon.

Lavender finished the final game of her career by scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Prahalis scored 22 points and dished out seven assists. Johnson finished with 16 points in her last game as a Buckeye.

“I thought we finished this season very well and played our best basketball down the stretch,” Foster reflected.

“I thought this year's seniors did a great job of weathering the storm through the course of the year and they did a great job demanding that their young teammates played at a certain level and do things at a certain level. People took that to heart. It's a bi-product of the team taking responsibility for their actions and having a high standard.”

And as for Foster's outlook next year?

"You just sort of reload and get ready. You can't dwell."

Box Score and Game Play by Play
Season Stats Year to Date

Postgame Notes

• Ohio State is now 14-3 (9-0 at the Big Ten tournament and 5-3 in NCAA play) in its last 17 postseason games.

• Ohio State finished the season 8-3 against ranked teams and 13-4 against teams that made the NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes defeated #11 Oklahoma, #9 Michigan State, #18 Iowa, #23 Penn State, #10 Michigan State on the road, #24 Iowa and #11 Michigan State on back-to-back days in the Big Ten tournament and #24 Georgia Tech in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Its three losses were against No. 1 UConn Dec. 19 at Madison Square Garden, at No. 21 Iowa Jan. 8 and # 4 Tennessee in the regional semifinal in Dayton March 26.

• Jim Foster is 34-25 all-time in the NCAA tournament in his career.

Ohio State shot 66.7 percent (16-of-24) from the field in the first half vs. Tennessee, which was a season best for the opening half. In the 67-60 win vs. Georgia Tech in the NCAA championship second-round game March 21, the Buckeyes shot 63.6 percent in the second half.

• Brittany Johnson knocked down four 3-pointers and finishes her career with 216, good for fourth on Ohio State’s all-time list.

• Samantha Prahalis led all scorers with 22 points in 38 minutes.

• For the 17th time this season Prahalis recorded 7 or more assists. Prahalis recorded her 700th career assist March 21 in the Buckeyes’ 67-60 win over Georgia Tech in the NCAA championship second-round game. She had 8 vs. the Yellow Jackets and 10 vs. UCF in the first-round game. Prahalis’ 7 assists was a game-high (tie) also. Tennessee’s Angie Bjorklund also had 7 assists.

• Jantel Lavender finished her Ohio State career scoring in double-figures in all 136 career games – an NCAA record for consecutive games with 10+ points. Lavender scored in double-figures in every game throughout high school as well. Against Tennessee, Lavender had 19 points and 10 rebounds.

• Lavender finishes her career with 2,818 points, first on Ohio State’s all-time list and second in Big Ten history.

• Lavender is the second-leading active scorer in the NCAA (2,818) behind UConn’s Maya Moore (2,937).

• Seniors Alison Jackson, Brittany Johnson, Jantel Lavender and Sarah Schulze appeared in their last game for Ohio State vs. Tennessee. They combined for 106 wins in their Buckeye careers.

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