Indystar Reports, When on her game, Ohio State junior center Jantel Lavender is a 6-4 force that cannot be stopped. At least, in this instance Sunday, not by an inspired but undersized group of Iowa Hawkeyes.
In the final seconds of a tie game with the women’s Big Ten Tournament title up for grabs, Buckeyes coach Jim Foster didn’t suffer a brain cramp when calling a final play.”If you’ve got a first-team All-American, you throw ’em the ball,” Foster said. “If you’re lucid.”
The three-time Big Ten Player of the Year turned inside with such fury, it was as if she intended to go through anyone in her way. She missed the shot but drew a blocking call on under-cutting guard Trish Nesbitt with 1.9 seconds remaining.
“I just knew it was going to be a foul or a finish,” Lavender said.
And so her legend grew as she sank both foul shots to give 10th-ranked Ohio State a 66-64 triumph over Iowa at Conseco Fieldhouse. Last year, she hit the deciding foul shot in a title game victory over Purdue.
Lavender had 35 points Sunday on 14-of-25 shooting from the field and 7-of-7 at the line to earn Most Outstanding Player for a second straight year. She broke former Purdue star Stephanie White’s title-game record of 31 points, set in 1999, and tied Wisconsin’s Barb Franke (1995) for the best single-game point output in this tournament. She also had 10 rebounds.
“We should have spent a little more time around Lavender, huh?” said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder, albeit tongue in cheek.
Ohio State (30-4) was supposed to be the better team. Iowa (19-13) was the upstart, a third seed that thought it needed to win at least once if not twice to assure an NCAA Tournament at-large berth.
Yet it was the Hawkeyes who came out flying in hopes of securing the automatic NCAA berth. The Buckeyes lost their composure. Sophomore point guardSamantha Prahalis, the team’s second-leading scorer, earned herself a seat on the bench to close the first half after a profane outburst at an official.
It’s no wonder Hawkeyes Kachine Alexander, Kelly Krei and Kamille Wahlin earned spots on the five-player All-Tournament Team. Each hit clutch shots to push Iowa ahead 49-33 with 18:25 remaining.”Unbelievable. Unbelievable,” Lavender said of the deficit. “I mean, I was looking at the scoreboard (thinking) ‘This is unbelievable.’ ”
Back came the Buckeyes. There’s a reason this team has been the No. 1 seed in this tournament the past six years, not to mention a three-time winner in five years.Shavelle Little and Tayler Hill sparked the defense, which started getting in the Hawkeyes’ faces to deny the open looks.
“We started to take it personally that we were getting torched,” Foster said of the comeback.
Lavender scored 18 points in the rally as Ohio State tied it at 60. She hit a couple of foul shots for a lead. Iowa tied it and went ahead 64-62. Back again came Lavender with a layup at the 1:20 mark.
Iowa had the first chance to take the lead in the final minute but turned the ball over. Then came the final foul call, which for a moment looked like it could have been either a charge or a block. Bluder stood in front of her bench and shook her head.
“I think it would have been a great overtime,” the Hawkeyes coach said. “And it seemed like after that game, the way it was going, it should have went into overtime.”
She was gracious in defeat and particularly effusive in her praise of Lavender. But to lead by 16 and let it slip away, that reality perhaps stung more than anything.
“I feel bad for my kids,” Bluder said. “I feel like they really deserved this.”