INDIANAPOLIS — If the Ohio State women’s basketball team (20-9) goes on to win the Big Ten Tournament title, it will have senior guard Brittany Johnson to thank.
During Friday night’s quarterfinal round game against No. 5-seeded Iowa (22-8), oft-relied-on sources of offense were less than reliable for the Buckeyes.
It took senior center Jantel Lavender nearly 12 minutes to score her first points against the Hawkeyes. By game’s end, Lavender had made five of her nine field-goal attempts. She finished the night with 11 points — 11.6 points below her season average of 22.6 per game.
OSU’s second-leading scorer, junior guard Samantha Prahalis, scored only seven points on 2-for-10 shooting from the field. Prahalis also fell short of her season average of 14.1 points per game.
OSU coach Jim Foster said he wasn’t satisfied with the Buckeyes’ offensive output.
“I thought we were a little careless with the ball,” Foster said. “We were forcing too much in the first half.”
Johnson, however, was a scoring threat from the opening tip until the final buzzer.
After opening up OSU’s scoring with back-to-back 3-pointers in the first half, Johnson put away the game with three more 3-pointers late in the second.
There were a couple more threes in between as well.
All told, Johnson made seven of 14 3-point attempts against Iowa and finished the game with a season-high 23-point performance.
“I was just in the zone, I guess,” Johnson said. “I just wanted to step up and help my teammates out. That’s what I did.”
After the game, Foster said Johnson played well on both sides of the court to lead OSU to the 71-61 win.
“(Johnson’s) developed herself into being a great shooter,” Foster said. “I thought her defense tonight was every bit as exciting as the 3-point shots.”
Even Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder had praise for Johnson.
“(Johnson’s) a good player,” Bluder said. “You’ve got to know where she is all the time. She is a really, really good 3-point shooter.”
Lavender might have summarized Johnson’s contribution to Friday’s victory most succinctly.
“We have the utmost confidence in (Johnson’s) shot,” Lavender said. “She did a great job focusing tonight. That’s what we needed to win.”
OSU continues Big Ten Tournament play with a semifinal round game against No. 1-seeded Michigan State (26-4) on Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse.