OSU Women Cagers Rally Past Wisconsin, 70-55

The Ohio State women's basketball team followed its lowest-scoring half of the season with a 50-point outburst en route to opening defense of another Big Ten title with a 70-55 victory over visiting Wisconsin on Sunday in Columbus.

Ohio State rebounded fully from a dismal first half to down visiting Wisconsin 70-55, on Sunday afternoon in Columbus.

The third-ranked Buckeyes (9-1, 1-0 Big Ten) trailed by as many as 11 in the first half and eight in the second but never looked back once they found themselves.

In the opening 20 minutes, Ohio State shot just 24.1 percent (7 for 29) and committed nine turnovers while the Badgers (7-2, 0-1) harassed every entry pass attempting to reach star Buckeye center Jantel Lavender.

The visitors made 13 of 28 from the field (46.4 percent) in the first half, an effort that helped them keep the Buckeyes out of their preferred transition game and made OSU point guard Samantha Prahalis operate in the halfcourt.

The Buckeyes chipped away during the first seven minutes of the second half, drawing to within two on a three-pointer from deep in the left corner by Tayler Hill, who was set up by Prahalis.

One possession later, Prahalis tried to tie it with a shot in the lane but came up empty. Undeterred, she followed her own shot and ended up saving it with a hustle play beneath the basket while going out of bounds. She got her hands on it while headed out of bounds and managed to flip it to Lavender, who skipped it quickly around the horn to Brittany Johnson, who was open on the opposite wing for a trey that gave the Buckeyes their first lead since 2-0.

Such plays were missing from the Buckeyes earlier in the game, and Prahalis admitted there was a dearth of them in their previous game, an 83-67 loss at Duke on Thursday night.

"It wasn't happening in the first half or the last game," she said. "I think we just needed to find ourselves, go back, because I remember last year we were doing all that stuff. So we just needed a reality check."

The combination of hustle and shooting prowess brought the Value City Arena crowd of 3,721 to its feet, although the lead would be short-lived.

Rae Lin D'Alie made a jumper in the lane to put the Badgers back in front, 44-43, but by then the Buckeyes were getting a rhythm, and they steamrolled the visitors from there.

From the midway point of the second half to the 2:57 mark, the Buckeyes outscored the Badgers 25-5.

Along the way, Ohio State bombarded the Badgers with threes and buried them from the foul line.

Hill, Sarah Schulze and Prahalis all made treys, and Prahalis, Lavender and Johnson combined to make 10 of 12 free throws during the run. Ohio State's other six points came on three baskets in the paint, including a pair from Lavender and another from Schulze, who drove to the basket after a Badger defender closed out on her too quickly.

"What I said at halftime was continue to do what we did in the first half, and that was take care of the ball, be patient on offense," said Wisconsin head coach Lisa Stone. "They upped their intensity once they started inching up to the lead and then took the lead, and that's natural."

"Loose balls, putting them at the free throw line, us turning it over - it seemed like it all came at one time, and that allowed them to pull away during those eight minutes."

Ohio State head coach Jim Foster credited the Buckeyes' turnaround to a combination of mental resolve and offensive execution.

"This team has had a leadership issue and I think it got determined at halftime," Foster said. "Coaches can talk until they're blue in the face. We weren't ready at 9 o'clock this morning to play this game, and I had that discussion with them. At halftime the players had a discussion. I didn't go in for a while because it was just time for them to step up."

Moving the ball through the offense instead of a quick perimeter shot or trying to force it to a heavily guarded Lavender helped open up the floor, too.

"We started to reverse the ball and it simplified things for Sammy and the team to understand how open the floor really was if we reversed the ball," Foster said. "In the first half it was one side, one side, one side and quick shots.

"I think once we reversed the ball it's pretty difficult for any team to play hard defense. It just opens up the ball so much. When you don't reverse the ball, you're playing into their defense, and once we started doing that we got a lot more open looks. The double team were coming and we just kicked it back because that reversal just opens up everything on the floor."

Lavender finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds. She went over the 1,500-point mark for her career.

Johnson added 16 points and Prahalis and Hill had 11 apiece for the Buckeyes, while Alyssa Karel and Teah Gant led Wisconsin with 10 markers.

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