After enduring a rare three-game losing streak, the Ohio State women’s basketball team (9-4, 0-1) got a shot of confidence Sunday, when it defeated Bethune-Cookman (6-6), 86-38.
“I think there’s a concerted effort that we understand how hard we have to play. It’s something that this group has had difficulty comprehending,” said OSU coach Jim Foster. “If you play hard every day, things get taken care of.”
After falling behind the Daytona Beach, Fla., team 4-0 early in the game, OSU senior center Jantel Lavender took the game into her own hands, scoring the first 11 points for the Buckeyes, and 15 of their first 19 points as OSU jumped out to a 46-25 first-half lead.
Lavender, who entered the game as the nation’s third-leading scorer, finished with 29 points in 21 minutes of action.
“We have to take this game and just try to emulate what we need to do in the Big Ten games,” Lavender said. “It was just a good game to just get that feeling back and just refresh ourselves and know that we have confidence.”
OSU junior guard Samantha Prahalis bounced back from her 1-for-13 shooting performance against Michigan, scoring 10 points and making 10 assists in her first double-double performance since OSU’s Dec. 5 win over Oklahoma. Prahalis provided the customary dazzling passes and flashy ball handling that had been absent from her game throughout much of the Buckeyes’ three-game skid.
Prahalis said that her success on the offensive end of the court started on defense.
“We played pretty good defense and rebounded. We just got the ball out,” Prahalis said. “We were just in a flow, in a good rhythm, and we just pushed it.”
For the game, OSU held a 31-2 advantage in fast-break points against the Wildcats. Foster said the difference between OSU’s win and its previous three losses was the Buckeyes’ ability to get score on fast breaks.
“Sammy and Jantel, they see each other,” Foster said. “We can get in transition because we’re playing such good defense, and we can get in transition, and Jantel can run. We haven’t been getting that — we haven’t been getting those easy baskets in transition.”
After dropping their conference opener to Michigan, the Buckeyes find themselves in the unfamiliar position of looking up in the Big Ten standings and will continue to rely on the play of the tandem of Lavender and Prahalis as they enter the remainder of conference play.
OSU returns to conference play Wednesday when it hosts Indiana in its Big Ten home opener. Despite the Buckeyes’ 0-1 start in conference play, Foster said that his team is still the team to beat in the Big Ten.
“Everybody in this league still wants a piece of us, and rightfully so,” Foster said. “We’ve earned the right for them to want a piece of us, but now you got to back it up.”