DAYTON, Ohio — The Buckeyes made two-thirds of their shots in the first half and led by two at intermission, but Tennessee’s second-half spurt was too much as Ohio State fell, 85-75, in Saturday’s Sweet 16 matchup at the University of Dayton Arena.
Ohio State had four players reach double figures, but Pat Summitt’s team clamped down defensively early in the second half extending a lead to 12, that it never relinquished.
Coach Jim Foster said that his team executed well offensively before the break, but began to rush things in the second half.
“I thought the last minute of the first half and the first five or six minutes of the second half we just got away from what was being successful,” Foster said. “We just started taking quick shots. … I thought for 33 minutes we played sound and smart basketball and for about seven minutes we didn’t.”
Those quick shots led to the Lady Volunteers speeding up the tempo and getting open looks. While Foster only used seven players on his roster, Summitt used 11. Tennessee’s coach of 37 years said her team’s deep roster was a distinct advantage.
“Our depth was really key. … It’s great to have the depth that we have,” she said. “We count a lot of different players and I think our depth has been very good to us – no better than today’s game.”
OSU struggled to score in the second shooting only 39.5 percent from the floor while the Lady Volunteers shot 46.3 percent.
“I don’t know what we were thinking in the first half,” Summitt said. “Obviously our defense had to pick it up.”
In the last game of her storied career, senior Jantel Lavender went out with a strong effort, registering 19 points and eight rebounds. Her double-digit scoring performance added to her NCAA record of 136. She scored at least 10 points in every game of her career.
With her heralded career at a close, Lavender seemed somewhat indifferent to the fact that she’d never take the floor as a Buckeye again.
“I haven’t really thought about it yet, but I don’t know,” she said.
Lavender was the first player in NCAA history to win four conference player of the year awards. Summitt praised OSU’s 6-foot-4 center as one of the nation’s best post players.
“She’s truly one of the best post players that we’ve faced. We knew going in it was going to be a real battle. … She’s got great skill set,” Summitt said. “She obviously is very tough minded and has done a great job for this OSU team and obviously been an impact player throughout her career.”
To combat Lavender, Summitt placed reserve center Kelley Cain into the starting lineup for the first time this season. Cain finished with 16 points on 80 percent shooting.
Through the game’s first five minutes, OSU shot 5-of-7 from the field while Tennessee shot 5-of-8. Tayler Hill led the Buckeyes through the game’s first eight minutes, scoring seven points on 2-of-3 shooting.
Midway through the first half, Samantha Prahalis started to take over, hitting two straight shots and a pair of free throws to give OSU a 26-21 lead. She finished the first half with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting while Lavender added nine, going 4-of-6 from the field.
Hill had a strong first half as well, giving the Buckeyes eight points while going 3-of-4 from the free throw line.
Prahalis finished with 22 points and seven assists along with Brittany Johnson’s 16 points and Tayler Hill’s 12.
The Buckeyes struggled to defend the paint in the first half, allowing Cain and forward Alyssia Brewer to shoot 5-of-6 in the game’s first 16 minutes. OSU was losing the points in the paint battle, 16-10.
Tennessee dominated the paint in the second half, outscoring the Buckeyes 40-26 down low.
At the half, Tennessee was able to enforce its will on the offensive glass, grabbing seven offensive boards. OSU had none. Tennessee won the first-half rebounding battle, 15-12, and finished by dominating the glass in the second half.
The Lady Volunteers had 52 rebounds to OSU’s 28.
Led by Prahalis, the Buckeyes shot 66.7 percent on field goals in the first half. Tennessee shot 48.6 percent. OSU led 42-40 at the half.
Tennessee opened up the second with an 8-4 run to take the lead with 16 minutes to play.