Ohio State Tops Illinois
March 6, 2009
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Ohio State's tournament troubles are over.
At least for one night.
Two-time Big Ten player of the year Jantel Lavender had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Brittany Johnson finished with 16 points, leading the 12th-ranked Buckeyes to a 70-53 victory over Illinois in the conference tournament quarterfinals Friday.
Ohio State (25-5) will face either Iowa or Minnesota in Saturday's semifinals.
Illinois (10-21) never came close to duplicating last season's upset of the Buckeyes in the quarterfinals. Jenna Smith led the ninth-seeded Fighting Illini with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Lydia McCully had 14 points.
While most expected Ohio State to dominate after earning the tournament's No. 1 seed for a record fifth straight year, they executed with efficiency rarely seen in this tournament.
The Buckeyes hit their first 10 shots, going more than 7 minutes without a miss while building a 22-7 lead. That was just the warmup act.
Ohio State used a 12-2 run late in the half to extend the lead to 40-14 and by halftime, the Buckeyes were holding a 41-19 lead and still shooting 66.7 percent.
They were on pace to break their own single-game tournament record for field-goal percentage (60.8 in 2007) and nearly on pace to break Iowa's record of 37 field goals in a tourney game despite losing the league's freshman of the year, Samantha Prahalis, for the final 9 minutes because of foul trouble.
Playing without Prahalis, the Buckeyes point guard, didn't seem to matter, either.
Illinois still couldn't contend with the Buckeyes big towers and only three Illini players scored in the first half. One of those was Smith, who repeatedly found herself trying to shoot over Lavender and Star Allen.
But the focused Buckeyes were relentless.
They refused to let up in the second half and after Illinois closed to 43-27, the Buckeyes answered with a 14-2 run to rebuild a 57-29 lead.
The Illini never challenged again.
Ohio State wound up 31-of-54 from the field, 57.4 percent -- matching the sixth-best mark in tourney history.