Christian Lautenschlegar / The Lantern
The spotlight was on the 13 feet and 1 inch of All-American candidate centers in the Ohio State-Michigan State women’s basketball game Saturday, but 5-foot 7-inch Samantha Prahalis stole the show in the Buckeyes’ 65-62 win.
Allyssa DeHaan, at 6 feet 9 inches, and Jantel Lavender, at 6 feet 4 inches, didn’t have much of a battle in the paint like anticipated.
Prahalis had a huge game, leading the Buckeyes to victory with a career-high 32 points — 16 in each half — and five assists. She never had a cold spell in the game, scoring the team’s first seven points and seven of its last nine.
“When I saw that [the shots] were falling, I just kept shooting,” Prahalis said.
Although their matchup wasn’t the highlight of the game, Lavender and DeHaan each played a major role.
DeHaan’s size allowed her to take away Lavender’s ability to post-up and made every OSU player think twice before attempting a shot in the key. She had three blocks in the game along with 12 points.
Lavender had a more profound impact on the stat sheet than DeHaan did. Lavender had 20 points and 13 rebounds — her ninth double-double of the season.
She had a slow first half, however, succumbing to MSU’s defensive game plan to keep her out of the paint on both ends, but she came alive in the second half, using her speed to get around DeHaan and not allow her to challenge her shots.
“My focus is trying to get to the basket,” Lavender said. “The taller you get, the slower you get, no matter how athletic you are. I just need to get her off her feet and drive her to the basket.”
Both Lavender and DeHaan are largely considered All-American candidates this year and have been since before the season began. This game may have vaulted Prahalis into the same arena.
Prahalis has been ranked in the top 10 in assists most of the season and is currently ranked second with 8.2 per game, behind only Gonzaga’s Courtney Vandersloot, an All-American Honorable Mention last season.
“We have two great players [in Lavender and Prahalis],” coach Jim Foster said. “They are very competitive, they want to win games and they’re going to put their responsibility into the game.”
Prahalis has now been the difference for OSU in the last two games. She hit the game-winning shot against Michigan Jan. 3 and Saturday she scored nearly half of OSU’s points against MSU.
“I think she’s an amazing player,” Lavender said. “She can shoot, she can drive, she can pass … she can do it all.”