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Lavender’s double-doubles, defense igniting Ohio State

Ohio State has a hard time losing when center Jantel Lavender records a double-double.

Lavender’s 22-point, 22-rebound game against Indiana on Wednesday was her eighth of the season and 65th of her career — good for more than any other active Big Ten player.

The Buckeyes are 8-0 this season and 54-11 over her four-year tenure when she registers double-digit points and rebounds in a game. The 22 rebounds were a career-high for the 6-foot-4 center.

“I take a lot of pride in (rebounding). I know that when we rebound, when we get fast breaks and we can push the ball because I throw good outlet passes and (point guard) Sammy (Prahalis) is a great outlet player,” Lavender said. “I know if I get her the ball, we can get fast break layups and we like to play fast. It’s fun.”

Lavender was named preseason Big Ten Player of the Year and came into Wednesday night second in the country in scoring at a clip of 24.7 points per game. Her 11.3 rebounds per game lead the Big Ten.

The Cleveland native has scored double-digit points in every game she has played going back to middle school. Lavender’s current collegiate streak of 116 games of scoring in double-figures is only nine games shy of Mississippi State’s LaToya Thomas’ NCAA record of 125 consecutive games.

“I just know that my teammates need me to rebound. I know that if I’m rebounding well then we’re flowing a little bit better,” Lavender said. “I know if I can get those offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds we can run into our offense a lot quicker.”

Suffocating defense

Only once has coach Jim Foster’s man-to-man defense allowed an opponent to shoot 50 percent from the field this season. It was against Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies, who tied the NCAA record for most consecutive wins Dec. 19.

“Our energy on defense is terrific and it’s a good thing for us. It just gives us different looks that we can throw at another team’s point guard,” Foster said. “We can throw five or six different people of various lengths and quickness” at them.

Indiana shot 36.5 percent on field goals Wednesday, largely because of Foster’s pressure scheme that focused on switches and close-outs on shooters. Lavender’s length on the interior prevented the Hoosiers from getting many good looks in the lane.

Sophomore guard Amber Stokes provided 15 valuable minutes off the bench, scoring a career-high 10 points and providing the Buckeyes with energy with her on-ball defending on the perimeter.

“I love playing defense,” Stokes said. “When coach puts me in the game, I’m going to pressure the ball.”

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