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Buckeyes surviving without suspended point guard Prahalis

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The No. 7 Ohio State women’s basketball team won its home opener 74-62, beating an Eastern Michigan program that has never defeated a ranked opponent. The Buckeyes won without star point guard Samantha Prahalis, who served the second game of a three-game suspension for a secondary NCAA rules violation that the team has refused to release further details about.

Despite a back-and-forth battle, OSU pulled away in the latter part of the second half to win by 12.

“I thought in the second half we executed very well,” OSU coach Jim Foster said. “We executed the way you need to execute to win games like that.”

Featuring four players in double figures and led by a dominating performance of 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists from reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Jantel Lavender, the balanced Buckeye attack proved to be too much for the Eagles to handle.

“I think they tried to emphasize pushing me up the lane a little bit, and when I caught it, they wanted to double team,” Lavender said. “I was just trying to take my time and find the open girl, and when we reversed the ball, I got better position.”

The game started slow, but OSU began to pull away midway through the first half. Mounting a 17-4 scoring run, the Bucks maintained a 24-11 lead with less than seven minutes to play in the first half.

EMU answered back with six points apiece from Tara Johnson and De’Ja Wills, ending the first half on a 15-4 run to cut the lead to 28-26 heading into the locker room.

“They are a very resilient basketball team,” said EMU coach AnnMarie Gilbert of her team. “I was very proud at the half and I actually wrote on the board, ‘Great half of basketball.’ That is how I want to see them fight.”

The Eagles’ momentum was short-lived in the second half. After tying the game less than a minute in, OSU put together a 10-1 run to regain the lead for good.

Despite a Tavelyn James 3-pointer with 9:25 remaining in the second half, cutting the OSU lead to just five, the Buckeyes outscored the Eagles 20-13 the rest of the way to finish with a 12-point victory. Prahalis’ replacement, sophomore Tayler Hill, was OSU’s second leading scorer with 13 points and also added three assists and three steals.

“I think we played fairly well,” Foster said. “I think we did some things at a fairly high level. I think we have to get better at some other things, which is where you should be two games into the season.”

The Buckeyes will travel to Louisiana to take on the LSU Tigers on Wednesday.

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