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Lavender towers over UCF starters, nets 30 points for Buckeyes in 1st-round win

The Central Florida women’s basketball team is Jantel Lavender’s latest victim.

The senior center led the fourth-seeded Buckeyes (23-9) to an 80-69 win against No. 13-seeded UCF (22-11) on Saturday in a first-round NCAA Tournament game at St. John Arena. OSU now will play Georgia Tech in the tournament’s second round on Monday.

UCF did not start a player taller than 5-foot-10 against the Buckeyes. The 6-4 Lavender seemed a safe bet to put up big numbers against the Knights’ starting lineup — and she did.

Taking advantage of single-defender coverage when OSU was on offense, Lavender scored a game-high 30 points on 13-of-22 shooting, and collected 11 rebounds. After the game, Lavender, the all-time leading scorer in OSU program history, said she was expecting to have two UCF players guarding her throughout the game.

“I thought the double-team was going to come eventually,” she said. “I don’t know if I could definitely tell what they were trying to do.”

The double-team never came.

UCF senior forward D’Nay Daniels praised Lavender’s performance after the game.

“She can play,” Daniels said. “She played her game and was hitting shots when she was open.”

Lavender’s low-post play, combined with the Knights’ lack of height, resulted in a 46-28 scoring advantage in the paint for OSU.

Daniels was complimentary of the Buckeyes’ ability to score close to the basket, saying, “They finished very well in the paint.”

No. 24-ranked Georgia Tech (24-10), the fifth-seeded team in the Dayton Region, will present a stiffer — and taller — challenge for the Buckeyes in Monday’s second-round game.

The Yellow Jackets defeated No. 12-seeded Bowling Green, 69-58, on Saturday at St. John Arena to advance to the second round. Junior Sasha Goodlett scored a team-high 19 points to lead Georgia Tech against the Falcons. Goodlett, a 6-5 center, is one of four 6-foot-tall Yellow Jacket starters.

Coach Jim Foster said the Buckeyes began preparing for Georgia Tech immediately after Saturday’s win.

“We already did a film session,” Foster said. “We have a 10-minute period in the locker room (after games) before the media come in, and we use the 10-minute cooling-off period to go over our scout tape with Georgia Tech. So, no time to celebrate.”

The Buckeyes will tip off their second-round tournament game against the Yellow Jackets at 7 p.m. Monday at St. John Arena.

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