Ohio State's Start Too Intense For Iowa

For a second straight night, the Ohio State women's basketball team jumped all over its opponent early and cruised to a double-digit victory. The victim Saturday night was Iowa, which fell behind 20-2 and never recovered. Ohio State's 72-56 win puts the Buckeyes in the tournament championship game Sunday night against Purdue.

INDIANAPOLIS – Ohio State surged into the Big Ten tournament final with a dominant 72-56 semifinal win over Iowa at Conseco Fieldhouse on Saturday night.

The top-seeded Buckeyes will play No. 3 Purdue for the tournament championship Sunday night at 5:30 on ESPN2.

If 12th-ranked Ohio State can repeat the offensive and defensive show it put on for Big Ten Network audiences the first two nights in Indianapolis, the rest of the nation could be in for a treat.

For a second straight night, the Buckeyes (26-5) quickly built a double-digit lead then cruised to victory.

Against the fourth-seeded Hawkeyes, they led 20-2 before the opponent showed much life just more than eight minutes into the game. The night before, Ohio State led Illinois 28-10 before 10 minutes had ticked off the clock.

Every Buckeye starter scored during the opening onslaught against Iowa (21-10), and in the first eight minutes the Hawkeyes missed 8 of 9 shots and committed eight turnovers.

The Hawkeyes finally gained a little bit of traction after the midpoint of the first half arrived. They used a 10-2 run to draw within 22-12 and still trailed by 10 with 6:30 to go after Ohio State's Jantel Lavender and Iowa's Kamille Wahlin traded baskets.

Shortly thereafter Buckeye Ashlee Trebilcock restored the her team's healthy cushion with back-to-back three-pointers and a driving layup that left Ohio State ahead 32-14 with three minutes left in the first half.

Iowa point guard Kristi Smith stopped Trebilcock's personal 8-0 run by converting a driving layup and foul into a three-point play, then Allen made a layup with three seconds to go to finish out the first half scoring.

In the opening half, Ohio State held Iowa to 8-for-26 shooting (28.6 percent) and forced 11 turnovers. The Hawkeyes missed all 6 of their three-point attempts.

"I thought their defensive intensity was great to begin the first half, and it really almost shellshocked us the way they played defense," Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. "They got us back on our heels right away and we turned the ball over too many times to begin the game. We gave them a big head start, and you just can't give a good team like that that many points to begin."

Ohio State head coach Jim Foster liked the scoring in the early going but was even happier with the defense that included three steals by Shavelle Little and another by Samantha Prahalis.

"It's always about defense," Foster said with a smile. "I thought we had the right energy and I thought we made the right decisions, and we were very aggressive with our switches. We went to them. We challenged them early and often."

Ohio State shot nearly 50 percent (15 for 32) and enjoyed a 13-0 advantage in scoring off turnovers.

The rest was mostly academic, although Iowa was able to pull within 12 when Smith made a trey with 5:26 to go. Trebilcok quickly answered that with another three of her own.

That was as close to threatening as the Hawkeyes were able to be.

"I think we came out and set the tempo in the first half, and we had to come out with that same energy in the second half," said Lavender, who had another monster game with 21 points and 17 rebounds. The sophomore also broke Katie Smith's record for most points in her first two seasons as a Buckeye.

"We knew if we didn't let up it would be hard for them to keep up with us, especially with how we were running and rebounding."

Lavender had plenty of help, including from fellow frontcourt member Allen, who had 13 points and 15 rebounds.

On the perimeter, Trebilcock had 11 while Brittany Johnson added 10 and Prahalis had nine.

Little finished with six steals and five assists.

Against Purdue, Ohio State will try to become only the second No. 1 seed to win this tournament in 10 seasons. The last was Ohio State in 2006.

The Buckeyes swept the season series with the Boilermakers, although neither time was PU point guard FahKara Malone at full strength. She missed the first contest – a 71-60 OSU victory in West Lafayette on Jan. 25 – with a dislocated finger, and the Buckeyes' 59-47 win in Columbus Feb. 5 was her first game back in the lineup.

Lavender expects the Boilermakers' best shot.

"I expect them to come out and play extremely hard," she said of a team that has won the past two Big Ten tournaments and beat Wisconsin 70-56 in the first game Saturday night in front of a vocal crowd wearing mostly black and gold. "This is sort of one of their home courts. We have to be ferocious, like we played today. Come out with the same intensity and just play Ohio State basketball."

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