OSU Ready To Show Big Ten Its Running Shoes

In both the immediate and longer-term future, the four-time defending conference champion Buckeyes are hoping for the same old results – another win over the Wolverines today to be followed by the school's all-time best 12th Big Ten title – but they plan to do both in a new way when the Big Ten season starts at 2 p.m. today on the Big Ten Network.

Rather than pounding teams into submission with power basketball, Ohio State (9-2) wants to run them off the floor.

The plan is one head coach Jim Foster hatched a couple of seasons ago but is only now taking shape thanks to the arrival of freshman point guard Samantha Prahalis.

The 18th-ranked Buckeyes and their fans have been looking forward to speeding things up for some time now, but has the Big Ten taken notice?

"I don't know," the professorial OSU head coach said when posed the question Friday afternoon. "That's an interesting question. We're about to find out."

"I don't know if Big Ten teams are watching us play but I think the style of play is way different, just completely different," sophomore star Jantel Lavender chimed in. "Sammy just brings that difference to us in the game. I think she really changed how we play because of the way she pushes the ball up the floor so fast. I think we'll show them something a little different."

Playing faster is something of a talking point, however. While pushing the ball has been a point of emphasis, it still takes a back seat to playing hard every possession on defense and executing on the offensive end, whether that is in a halfcourt set or in the open floor on the break.

Ashlee Trebilcock, a senior guard who has had a close-up view of the Ohio State program as it has evolved, was willing to attest for the added versatility of the team this season.

"We are definitely more versatile because I think we can do both," she said. "The last couple years we couldn't really push the ball that well and now we can, and we can run a halfcourt offense and find people."

More often than not, they are finding Lavender. The sophomore, who shared Big Ten player of the year honors last season begins her second season of conference play eighth in the nation in scoring (22.1 points per game) and fifth in rebounding (12.0). She leads the Big Ten in both categories.

Meanwhile, Prahalis is ninth in the country in assists (6.2).

But while those two earn most of the headlines, they cannot do it alone. Lavender explained that she and her teammates are getting the message that no matter how they play, they still have to play hard.

"I think our team is starting to understand how to play a little harder and how to always compete at the level," the sophomore post player said, borrowing one of Foster's favorite terms. "It's slowly but surely coming to everybody that you always have to compete every moment of the game. And I just think we're growing as a whole. I think that we're jelling more since we've had 11 games so far. I think that when you play that many games you can't help but get closer to your teammates and know where everybody's going to be.

"I think going into Big Ten play we're confident and we're just going to try to keep getting better and work harder at practice."

The 7-4 Wolverines are an appropriate opponent for opening the conference slate.

During head coach Kevin Borseth's first season in Ann Arbor last year, Michigan broke a six-year streak of losing seasons by posting a 19-14 and qualifying for the NIT.

This year, the Wolverines are receiving votes in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches poll and come to Columbus having already knocked off No. 8 Notre Dame and No. 12 Vanderbilt earlier this season, so they figure to pose a far greater challenge to Ohio State than they have recently.

Foster's Ohio State teams are 8-0 against Michigan and can boast of an average margin of victory north of 24 points.

The Buckeyes know the Wolverines are on the rebound.

"We know the games they've won and we know their schedule, so we know they're a good team," Trebilcock said. "We're not underestimating them or anything at all."

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