Behind a pair of double-doubles from its star players, the No. 7 OSU women’s basketball team (5-0) overcame a slow start to defeat UNC-Wilmington 88-69 on Sunday at Value City Arena.
Center Jantel Lavender scored 25 points to go with 11 rebounds and point guard Samantha Prahalis scored 21 points and recorded 11 assists in her second game back from serving a three-game suspension for committing a secondary violation in the offseason.
The Buckeyes struggled to establish a rhythm in the first half, committing seven turnovers and missing five of their first eight free throw attempts.
OSU coach Jim Foster said his team is still adjusting to Prahalis’ presence in the line-up.
“Without a doubt it’s a work in progress,” Foster said. “In the first half we forced some issues … there’s no bad teams this time of year, let alone, that’s a good team.”
UNC-Wilmington led the Buckeyes 17-16 with nine minutes remaining in the first half before a Prahalis floater regained the lead for OSU. Amber Stokes then added to the OSU lead with a jump shot and stole the ensuing inbounds pass, finding Prahalis for another floater, which extended the Buckeyes’ lead to 22-17.
Paced by 12 first-half points from guard Brittany Johnson, the Buckeyes failed to push their lead to more than eight points, as UNC-Wilmington cut the Buckeye advantage to 37-32 at the end of the half following a 3-point shot by Abria Trice. Johnson finished the game with 17 points.
“Brittany did a very good job at the offensive end,” Foster said. “On this team, if you run, you’re going to get pretty good shots.”
The Buckeyes had a difficult time putting away the Seahawks in the second half, as back-to-back 3-point shots from Alisha Andrews and Jessica Freeman cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 57-54 with less than 11 minutes remaining in the game.
“When you win a lot of games, you’re targeted by your opponents,” Foster said. “We’re the big game on a lot of teams’ schedules.”
The Buckeyes extended their lead to 11 points on a 3-point shot from Prahalis, but the Seahawks answered back again on the very next play when Brittany Blackwell was fouled as she converted a lay-up and made the subsequent free throw.
The Seahawks, however, couldn’t find an answer for Lavender in the second half; with less than seven minutes remaining, she scored on six consecutive OSU possessions, pushing the OSU lead to 80-65.
“We started running the floor really well, reversing the ball and making the extra pass,” Lavender said. “It was just, basically, attention to detail, running the plays right and reversing the ball.”
Lavender’s basket with 6:02 remaining in the second half moved her past former OSU center Jessica Davenport for the school’s record for career field goals.
“I’ve been fortunate to coach some very, very talented post players here,” Foster said. “Jantel got that running start as a freshman here and she hasn’t stopped since, so it was just a matter of time until that was going to happen.”
The Buckeyes will next face Virginia on Thursday in the Big Ten-ACC challenge, when they’ll play their lone game of the season at St. John’s Arena before taking on No. 11 Oklahoma on Sunday at Value City Arena.
“I like the challenge, I like the fact that we’re playing a lot of different teams with a lot of different looks,” Lavender said. “It’s basically preparing us for anything that we could potentially face in the NCAA tournament.”