Buckeyes Clinch Big Ten - Again

From the opening tip Thursday night at Value City Arena, Ohio State played like a team at once hoping to clinch a share of a sixth consecutive Big Ten championship as well as erase an ugly memory. The seventh-ranked Buckeyes did both with a 75-45 victory against Purdue.

"I think we just came out with a different mindset today," said Ohio State freshman guard Tayler Hill, who scored 14 points. "We were ready. We were intense. Everybody had an attitude. Everybody took it personal today."

Ohio State (24-3) held a modest 11-6 lead in the opening minutes when the flood gates opened.

The Buckeyes ripped off 15 straight points, opening a 26-6 lead in the opening eight minutes that trumped their fateful 16-0 early advantage when the two teams played at West Lafayette on Jan. 25.

That night, the lead was not enough. Purdue (13-12) outplayed Ohio State for the final 33 minutes and pulled off a 63-61 upset.

There would be no such turnaround this time. The Buckeyes' intensity on defense and fluidity on offense assured that much would be true.

Purdue answered Ohio State's 15-0 run with a 10-2 spurt that brought the visitors within 12, 28-16, with 81/2 minutes to go, but instead of folding as they did in the first matchup, the Buckeyes responded emphatically.

They scored the final 13 points of the half and shut out Purdue over the last 8:45.

Then they began the second half as sharply as they played most of the first and were never in danger again.

Ohio State scored the first eight points after intermission, including two on a layup by Hill after she caught a length-of-the-court pass from Samantha Prahalis that would have made Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Drew Brees proud - if he weren't a Purdue alumnus - and the rout was on.

The Buckeyes eventually stretched the lead to as many as 35 as 5,469 watched.

"They're hitting outside shots, inside shots - they have everything going right now," Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp said. "They're playing great basketball."

Ohio State center Jantel Lavender finished the night with 20 points and 11 rebounds for her 15th double-double of the season.

"Tonight it just felt like no one could contend with us," Lavender said. "We wanted to set a tone with our defense and we wanted to prove that we are a top contending team."

Prahalis added nine points and 11 assists.

No Boilermakers scored in double figures. Houser had nine to lead Purdue in scoring.

With the blowout, Ohio State clinched at least a share of the Big Ten championship for the sixth season in a row, something never previously accomplished by a men's or women's squad, although Ohio State head coach Jim Foster did not have much to say about it afterward.

"We'll talk about it after the season," Foster said. "It's about the next game. It's about getting better. All the other stuff, if you take care of that, good stuff happens. We've got some talented players, and we have a mindset that's starting to evolve at the defensive end of the floor, and that other stuff will be a summer discussion."

Or, as Lavender put it, "It's the first short-term goal the team has. We have small short-term goals, and the next two games will seal the deal for the short-term goals and then we can move to the next one, which is the Big Ten tournament, and then take it from there."

The title is the 13th in school history, and the Buckeyes have four tries to make it outright for the second season in a row.

Their first chance comes Sunday with a 12:30 EST visit to Minnesota.

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