Ohio State jumped out to an 8-1 lead on three baskets by Jantel Lavender and a pair of free-throws by Sarah Schulze. Before OSU fans could relax, South Carolina Upstate came roaring back to cut the lead to 8-7 and ignite some worries that maybe the team still was not focused. The Buckeyes quickly calmed those worries with an 11-2 run over the next four minutes to stretch the lead to 19-9. The two teams would trade baskets over the next five minutes and Ohio State lead 30-19 with just over 5 minutes remaining in the half. At this point the Buckeyes went on another run to end the half up 46-24 and the game was pretty much out of reach for the Spartans.
South Carolina Upstate came out of the locker room determined to not go away quietly as they opened the second half with a 10-2 run that cut the Ohio State lead to 48-34. A 19-4 run by the Buckeyes over the next 5 minutes ended any chance the Spartans had as the lead stretched to 67-38. Ohio State had gone to the bench since early in the first half and from this point on the bench saw even more time on the floor as the Buckeyes turned on the cruise control on their way to an 87-55 victory.
While there was never any serious concern about the possibility of an upset in this one, it was still nice to see Ohio State have such a dominating performance. Ohio State outshot South Carolina Upstate 43% to 33% and outrebounded them 54-34. It would have been easy to overlook the Spartans but the Buckeyes were focused and played a solid game.
Jantel Lavender led the Buckeyes in both scoring and rebounding, putting up 33 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. She shot an impressive 13 of 19 from the floor. Forward Sarah Schulze rebounded well from her scoreless performance against Syracuse by scoring 11 points and grabbing 9 boards, falling just short of a double-double. Guard Tayler Hill put up 13 points to be the only other Buckeye to score in double figures.
Junior guard Samantha Prahalis struggled to score, putting up only 2 points on 1 of 12 shooting, 0 of 6 from beyond the arc. Prahalis did have 8 assists while only committing 3 turnovers. Since classes are done for the year, hopefully Prahalis can get a bit of extra time in the gym this week and regain her shooting touch but it is nice to see that she did not let her poor shooting affect the other aspects of her game. Shooters will have off nights and the key is to still find a way to contribute, something that Samantha did tonight.
For most of the season Ohio State has been slow to go to the bench, rarely playing more than 8 players in a game. Tonight the Buckeyes went to the bench early and often, resulting in 12 players seeing game time. Even better was the fact that 11 different Buckeyes scored, most notably freshman center Ashley Adams scored a career high 8 points. It is always nice to see bench players get playing time and it was even better to see them contributing when they were out there. Hopefully as the season goes on we can see the bench continue to get significant minutes and contribute.
The only real problem spot for the Buckeyes tonight was 3-point shooting. Coming into this game, Ohio State was at the bottom of the Big Ten in shooting percentage from beyond the arc and tonight’s 2 of 18 performance will doing nothing to help that. The inability of the Buckeyes to hit from beyond the arc this season has confounded me as Brittany Johnson and Sarah Schulze are excellent three-point shooters and Samantha Prahalis is solid. If the OSU shooters can regain their touch, it will open up the inside more for Jantel Lavender, how much damage she could do then is actually sort of scary, and for divers to the basket from Prahalis, Hill, and Amber Stokes.
Up next for the Buckeyes is a date with history as they take on #1 ranked Connecticut on Sunday in the Maggie Dixon Classic. It is always special when you have the chance to face the top team in the country and playing the game in Madison Square Garden, arguably the most famous basketball arena in the world, only makes it more so. However on top of that UConn will be going for their 88th straight win, which would tie the record set by the UCLA men. The game will be at 2:30 pm and will be televised on ESPNU. Look for a full preview of this historic game to be posted here this weekend.