Balance Brings 72-56 Buckeye Victory

The Big Ten women's basketball season continued to hold form Monday night at Value City Arena as the home team won another important game in the tussle for the league crown. This time it was Ohio State getting the better of visiting Purdue, 72-56, at Value City Arena.

This time it was 23rd-ranked Ohio State that prevailed with a 72-56 win over visiting Purdue, a victory that let the Buckeyes jump past the Boilermakers from third into second place in the conference standings and sets up a massive showdown Thursday between Ohio State (19-6, 10-4) and first-place Iowa (18-8, 11-4).

Led by senior Marscilla Packer's 18 points, all five Buckeye starters scored in double figures against the Boilermakers (14-12, 10-5), and Ohio State became the first team this season to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor.

But shooting was just one of many categories in which the Buckeyes bested their visitors this cold night in Columbus.

Jantel Lavender, who added 13 points for Ohio State, perhaps summed up the contest best after the Buckeyes outscored, outshot and outrebounded the Boilermakers.

"I think we did a really good job today in all aspects," she said, a statement as true as it was simple.

Ohio State also finished with more assists (17-12) and forced more turnovers (18-11) while outscoring the Boilermakers in the paint (40-30) off turnovers (15-13), on the fast break (8-4) and in second-chance points (8-4).

Joining Packer and Lavender in double figures were Tamarah Riley, who had 12, and Ashlee Trebilcock and Shavelle Little, both of whom scored 11.

In one of her most complete performances of the season, the star freshman Lavender added nine rebounds and a career-high six assists.

For the second time against Ohio State this year, FahKara Malone led the Boilermakers in scoring, but her 17 points in this contest were a far cry from her 23 in the Boilers' one-point win Feb. 7.

Not only did Malone's team-leading total drop, but so did the importance of her points. After streaking to eight quick markers in the first nine minutes of the game, she endured a lengthy scoring drought.

She made a three-pointer to give her team a 14-13 lead with 11:09 to play in the first half then did not score again until just 2:32 remained in the game. By that time Ohio State had built a 15-point lead.

The three-point play that finally got her back into the scoring column was the start of a late nine-point outburst, but Purdue never got closer than nine in the final two minutes.

Malone was gracious in defeat, taking the blame both for the 11 points Little, her opposite number at point guard, scored and her own scoring drought.

"I think that I just wasn't as aggressive as I should have been for my teammates," she said. "That's something that I need to take care of."

Malone's coach, on the other hand, was quicker to look to other factors to explain her team's loss.

Of her team's three free throw attempts, Sharon Versyp said curtly that her team was not aggressive enough to earn trips to the line in the first half but corrected that deficiency after intermission.

"But you figure it out," she said.

Ohio State, meanwhile, shot 28 free throws, including 21 in the second half, when they were in the bonus for more the final 10:15.

The Boilermakers were whistled for 21 fouls compared to Ohio State's eight.

Had the Buckeyes done more to help themselves than make just 13 of those freebies, or 46.4 percent, the 4,688 in attendance might have seen a game that was even less competitive.

Also an issue in Versyp's mind was the eight-day layoff Ohio State enjoyed prior to the Boilermakers' visit. Each conference team gets two off weeks during the Big Ten season, and this was when Ohio State's happened to fall. The Buckeyes last played Feb. 10, an 80-77 win at Wisconsin.

Purdue, meanwhile, was in action twice in that span of time, a Feb. 11 loss at Michigan State and a Feb. 14 win over visiting Iowa that helped to further muddle the conference race.

"I think it's a huge edge," she said. "If you have eight days and then you're at home, it helps."

Ohio State head coach Jim Foster did not see fatigue as a factor in the game.

"I don't know about you, but when I was 20, I didn't get tired," the 59-year-old Foster said. "You had another engine, and you didn't get tired. It's nice to be 19, 20, 21."

He added that the Buckeyes put in no extra preparation time for Purdue because they spent three days of their week simulating training camp with some back-to-basics defensive drills.

"We went back to some fundamental things that we lost track of defensively and reminded our players of some things and I think they took it to heart," he said, adding that they spent their customary two days preparing for their opponent.

Two Boilermakers aside from Malone scored in double figures. Lakisha Freeman and Danielle Campbell had 10 points apiece.

Ohio State is the only team in the Big Ten undefeated at home in conference play (7-0), while Iowa is the only conference team with a winning road record (4-3). The Hawkeyes lead Ohio State by a half-game in the standings heading into the game Thursday night, when the Buckeyes will be going for a season sweep after a 73-65 win in Iowa City Jan. 6.

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