After finding center Jantel Lavender from half court for an and-1 lay-up, point guard Samantha Prahalis celebrated her first assist of the game by pumping her fist furiously at the crowd of 4,746 at the Schottenstein Center on Sunday night.
It was the first of a career-high 15 assists for Prahalis, as the No. 6-ranked Ohio State women’s basketball team (7-0) defeated No. 11 Oklahoma (7-1) 95-84 in the inaugural Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge.
“I only got 15 assists because people made shots,” Prahalis said. “We were just knocking down shots. I was able to find people. I know Oklahoma’s a good team, so you need a team effort to beat them.”
Prahalis, who finished the game with 15 points, scored or assisted on 10 of the Buckeyes’ first 12 scores, fueling OSU to a 27-15 lead.
Oklahoma responded with an 11-0 run and cut the Buckeyes’ lead to one with about six minutes remaining in the first half.
A pair of Lavender free throws ended a five-minute scoreless streak for the Buckeyes, and OSU eventually pushed its lead back to five before Oklahoma freshman Aaryn Ellenberg’s 3-pointer tied the score, 36-36.
Brittany Johnson answered back for OSU with a 3-point shot on the next possession and had a put-back basket with 15 seconds left in the first half, as the Buckeyes entered the half with a 45-40 advantage.
Oklahoma battled back in the second half and tied the game at 62-62 with a Danielle Robinson basket. On the next possession, Ellenberg, who at that point had 30 points for the Sooners, picked up her fourth foul with 11 minutes remaining in the game.
With the Sooners’ leading scorer saddled to the bench in foul trouble, the Buckeyes pushed their lead to 75-69 behind 16 second-half points from Lavender, who finished the game with 32 points.
“When Aaryn Ellenberg got her fourth foul and had to come out, it began to unravel a little bit because she had been so much a part of our offensive confidence,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said.
Ellenberg returned with 6:15 remaining and the Sooners trailing 74-69, but she failed to find the scoring touch that she left the game with as she scored only four more points before fouling out.
“Give her credit, she was unconscious in that first half, and give us credit, we found her at the end,” OSU coach Jim Foster said. “We got stops and made her shots more difficult.”
With the Buckeyes leading 79-72, Prahalis made up for an airball by stealing the ball from Jasmine Hartman as she came down with the rebound and found Tayler Hill for a lay-up to break the game open.
“The last seven minutes of the game or so, our defense was up to the task,” Foster said. “At the end of the game, we did the things we needed to do on the offensive end of the floor.”
The Buckeyes pushed their lead to 14 points on Prahalis’ 15th assist of the game, as OSU picked up the win in Foster’s 1,000th career game.
In addition to Lavender and Prahalis, three other Buckeyes finished in double figures, including Johnson with 18, Hill with 16, and Sarah Schulze, who recorded her first double-double of her career, with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“It was a quality win for us,” Foster said. “We’re starting to get a rhythm to how we play. It’s a good thing at this time of year to be building a rhythm.”