<
>

No. 7 Ohio State cruises to easy win over Penn State

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Beating Penn State is always special for
the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Jessica Davenport scored 19 points and Kim Wilburn sparked the
defense with four first-half steals to lead No. 7 Ohio State to a
74-53 victory over the Nittany Lions on Thursday night.

"It felt good to beat a team that's dominated our league,"
said Wilburn, who had nine points, five rebounds, seven assists,
four steals and no turnovers. "We're trying to show our identity,
to make a statement in the Big Ten."

Debbie Merrill and Marscilla Packer each scored 10 points for
the Buckeyes (9-1), who won by the largest margin in the 40
meetings with the Nittany Lions.

"We had a tough loss a couple of weeks ago (to No. 3 LSU), so
it's nice to bounce back and show what we can do," Wilburn said.

The Buckeyes avoided a repeat of last season's disappointment.
They were 11-1 and ranked No. 7 when they started Big Ten play with
a 69-62 loss at Penn State, which was just 6-5 at the time.

"It doesn't matter who it is -- it's a conference game," Ohio
State coach Jim Foster said. "They're a team with a lot of
tradition, a lot of pride. It's just good to start with a win.
They've won their last six conference openers in a row. So all of
the above is good."

Kamela Gissendanner had 15 points and Adrienne Squire 11 for the
Nittany Lions (6-6), who won 11 of 15 previous games against Ohio
State in Columbus.

Coach Rene Portland is trying to bring an extremely young team
around slowly. The growing pains were evident as they turned the
ball over 24 times, were outrebounded 36-30 and didn't hit a
3-pointer (0 for 3).

"It's glaring statistics," she said. "Obviously, it's our
turnovers -- some induced, some self-induced -- and the rebounding
situation. We're a young team trying to survive the situation."

The Buckeyes didn't waste any time in taking control.

Trailing 4-2 after the first 4 minutes, Ohio State went on an
11-0 run over the next nearly 4½ minutes.

Merrill, who also had five assists and four rebounds, started
the streak with a bucket inside off a lob pass from Davenport
before Davenport hit two free throws and then picked up a loose
ball and popped in a short shot. Stephanie Blanton then hit a
3-pointer from the right wing before Wilburn made a reverse layup
to push the lead to 13-4.

The two tallest Buckeyes starters -- the 6-foot-5 Davenport and
6-1 Merrill -- frequently traded passes for easy baskets.

"Our chemistry is coming along pretty well," Davenport said.
"If her player comes to double me and we're communicating, it's
nice to know she's there and I can pass to her."

Merrill, a transfer from Cincinnati playing her first season
with the Buckeyes, said she had an easy job.

"Jess is a big target," she said. "It's not hard getting her
the ball."

The Lions missed two shots and turned the ball over five times
during their scoring drought.

Wilburn was the biggest force defensively. Leading the Big Ten
in steals at 4.6 per game, she stole the ball three times during
the spurt.

"I tried to be as aggressive as I could be," she said.

Penn State had 16 turnovers -- and just 20 points -- in trailing
by 18 at halftime. Nine Buckeyes scored and eight had rebounds.

The Nittany Lions scored the first five points of the second
half to draw to 38-25, but Ohio State ran off the next nine points
and the lead hovered around 20 the rest of the game.

Squire hit all three of her free-throw attempts, keeping her a
perfect 45-for-45 on the season. The sophomore has not missed a
foul shot in her college career, making all 55. The Division I
record is 66 free throws in a row.

Charity Renfro, a reserve for the Lions, hurt her left ankle in
the final minutes and was helped to the bench.

Foster said he realized that the 64-48 loss to LSU on Dec. 15
was no reason to make major revisions to his lineup or approach.

"It's not like we had to rebuild the wheel," he said. "We
just have to take what the other teams give us."