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Foster, OSU adjusting after initial Big Ten struggles

Eric Beiersdorfer / Lantern photographer

If the No. 24-ranked Ohio State women’s basketball team (11-6, 2-3) is going to win a seventh straight Big Ten championship, coach Jim Foster knows he’s going to have to make some adjustments.

The Buckeyes, who returned all five starters from their 2009-10 Big Ten championship team, have hit an untimely slump as they’ve entered conference play, having lost five of their last eight games. In an attempt to spark the OSU offense, Foster has moved Samantha Prahalis off the ball and away from her customary point guard position, and has given more ball handling duties to sophomore Tayler Hill.

“It’s called playing basketball,” Foster said. “We weren’t really shooting the three particularly well, and Sammy right now is probably our best 3-point shooter. So, when you’re off the ball, and you have a penetrator like Tayler in the game and a penetrator like Amber Stokes in the game, we don’t need Sammy to be a penetrator. We need her to be a shooter.”

Hill, former OSU men’s point guard P.J. Hill’s sister, is no stranger to the point guard position. When Prahalis was suspended for the first three games of the season for a secondary rules violation, Hill took over the point guard role, playing all 40 minutes of all three games.

Hill said the reps she got in those first three games made her more confident in her new role.

“The first game, I think I had seven or eight turnovers,” Hill said, “and (my teammates) were still behind me like, ‘You got it. We need you.'”

OSU’s leading scorer, Jantel Lavender said there’s a contrast between Hill’s and Prahalis’ styles of play.

“Sammy might do something flashy and she can see the open floor,” Lavender said. “Tayler just gets the ball where it needs to go.”

Foster agreed.

“Tayler’s strength is her strength. She’s a very strong guard that can get into seams and use her strength to get good penetration,” Foster said. “Sammy has got to use deceptiveness and her quickness to get there.”

Despite the differences between Hill and Prahalis, Foster insisted his decision to give more point guard duties to Hill is about giving opposing defenses different looks, and is not because of Prahalis’ play.

“Prahalis is the best open-floor player in the country, OK?” Foster said. “When we’re in transition, aka the Oklahoma game, what she does is absolutely terrific.”

The Buckeyes, who beat Michigan State, 67-53, on Sunday, will look to improve their conference record this week when they take on Illinois at 8 p.m. Thursday in Champaign. Foster said he’s tired of using losses as learning lessons for his team.

“The only thing you can learn from them is whether or not your effort was what it needed to be,” he said. “That’s the only byproduct.”

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