Thur. Final: Ohio State 75, UW Women 53
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- After racing to a share of a fifth straight Big Ten title, Ohio State coach Jim Foster compared his team to another athlete who could do a lot of things.
"We've got a little bit of Ali in us," Foster said with a smile. "We can dance and we can hang on the ropes and slug."
Center Jantel Lavender had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Samantha Prahalis fueled the 14th-ranked Buckeyes' fastbreak to lead the way to a 75-53 win over Wisconsin on Thursday night.
The piece of the title allowed the Buckeyes (23-5, 14-3) to match school and Big Ten records. Ohio State also won five in a row from 1983-87.
Unlike the four previous titles, this one showed Ohio State -- with Prahalis leading the charge like a playground dervish -- can get out and run when needed, or it can rely on its 1-2 inside combo of Lavender and Star Allen to muscle teams. Together, they give the Buckeyes more diversity than they've had in the past.
"Ohio State is an outstanding team," Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone said. "They have abilities in every area."
Prahalis, leading the Big Ten and 17th in the nation in assists at almost six per game, kept the Buckeyes running on both offense and defense. She finished with nine assists and three steals despite not playing most of the second half.
"I love running because we get easy baskets and you get to create more," the freshman said.
Allen added 17 points and Ashlee Trebilcock 11 for Ohio State, which won its fourth game in a row. The Buckeyes clinched the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament next week while extending their own mark with a 12th Big Ten women's basketball title.
Prahalis is able to find Lavender no matter where they are on the court. Likewise Allen and Lavender make a potent combo under the basket.
"It's exciting that I can find Jantel and Jantel can find me," Allen said. "It's like a little connection between the post players."
Alyssa Karel scored 13 points, Teah Grant 11 and Rae Lin D'Alie 10 for Wisconsin (16-13, 6-12), which is off until the conference tournament in Indianapolis.
"I'm taking nothing away from Ohio State," Stone said. "But our lack of heart and our inability to compete defensively is disappointing."
Ohio State, up 11 at the half, got off to a sluggish start in the second 20 minutes before Prahalis got going.
She tossed a 30-foot, lookaway pass to Lavender for a three-point play, followed that with a quick behind-the-back flip to Lavender for another bucket and then raced the ball down the court and fired a pass to Brittany Johnson for a 3 from the right corner.
Those three baskets capped an 8-0 run that swelled the Buckeyes' lead to 48-31. Their lead never dropped below 15 points again.
"We ran hard. Our bigs ran and our guards were running wide and when they're making some plays from the corners, you have to make a decision," Foster said. "It's sort of pick your poison."
Lavender has 33 career double-doubles in 59 career games and has scored at least 10 points in every game in her college career. She came in leading the Big Ten in scoring (20.6) and rebounds (10.5) and is likely to win her second consecutive conference player of the year award.
She said she has grown accustomed to Prahalis getting her the ball, sometimes in unconventional ways.
"Some of our point guards in high school (were good passers) but they weren't quite as fancy," Lavender said. "I'm always ready for Sammy's passes because I know she has those little creative passes that she throws."
Trebilcock gave the Buckeyes a boost in the opening half. A starter for most of the season, she has seen limited time in recent weeks because of nagging knee problems. But she came in to hit two 3s and a 14-foot jumper as Ohio State pulled away to a 29-14 lead.
The Buckeyes shot 52 percent from the field in building a 40-29 lead at the break. They finished at 53 percent from the field.
They have won 77 of their past 89 Big Ten regular-season games and 41 of the past 43 at home.
Foster said there wasn't much time to appreciate the fifth title, at least until after the regular-season finale Sunday at home against Penn State.
"We would like to win the league outright," he said. "We're not done with the regular season. We've got another game and we've got to get ready for that one."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)