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No. 7 Ohio State gets by Indiana in defensive battle

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Indiana did its best to slow down
All-American Jessica Davenport. Trouble was, Ohio State had enough
other players to do the job.

Debbie Merrill had nine points and 10 rebounds and patrolled the
inside on defense to lead No. 7 Ohio State to a 60-50 victory over
Indiana on Thursday night.

Brandie Hoskins scored 12 points and Marscilla Packer had 11 for
the Buckeyes (14-2, 5-1 Big Ten), who won their fifth straight and
eighth in last nine games.

"We knew coming in here that the focus would be on trying to
take Davenport out of the game and taking Packer out of the game,"
Indiana coach Sharon Versyp said. "That presents opportunities for
everybody else to step up and that's what happened."

Merrill also had four blocked shots and three assists in an
all-around effort that stood out in a defensive struggle. She set
the tone on the court by hitting a bucket and blocking three shots
as the Buckeyes went on an 8-2 run late in the first half to take
control.

"Coach pulled me to the sideline and said I needed to score and
I needed to lead the defense," said Merrill, a transfer from
Cincinnati. "I had to give a burst of energy to my team."

It was an off night offensively and defensively for Davenport,
the reigning player of the week in the conference. She sat out long
stretches of the second half, although she finished with 10 points
and nine rebounds. Just a week earlier, she had 34 points, 16
rebounds, a personal-best six assists and three blocked shots in a
72-62 win at Iowa.

"They really packed it in," Davenport said of the Hoosiers'
defense. "I didn't do a good job of moving around the defense."

Cyndi Valentin scored 18 points and Whitney Thomas had 12 points
and 13 rebounds for Indiana (9-8, 3-3), which won its last two
conference road games.

The Hoosiers have not beaten a ranked opponent since upsetting
No. 7 Purdue 55-41 in the 2002 Big Ten tournament.

The Buckeyes matched their season average on defense. They came
in ranked second in the nation in points allowed per game at 50.3.

With Indiana players jamming the paint on defense, they were
forced to shoot outside. They hit 6-of-13 3-pointers to help open
things up.

"I don't think I remember a bad 3-point shot," Ohio State
coach Jim Foster said. "We would like to run, but they packed it
in and took away the inside. We did a very good job on
3-pointers."

In an up-and-down first half, Ohio State broke out to a 7-0 lead
before missing seven shots in a row as Indiana used a 10-0 run to
take a 14-12 lead. The Buckeyes then recovered to permit the
Hoosiers only one field goal over the final 5½ minutes of the half
to take a 29-20 lead.

Despite the three quick baskets to open the game, the Buckeyes
didn't play well in the first half for the fourth time in their six
conference games.

Merrill dominated inside in the final minutes of the half as
Ohio State scored eight of the final 10 points. During that span,
she blocked three consecutive shots by the Hoosiers.

"Merrill is just one of those workhorses -- she does
everything," Versyp said. "She's a role player, but sometimes
that's what you fear the most. When she got the ball down low, she
beat us one on one. She did a good job on defense. She did a heck
of a job."

Indiana never got closer than six points in the second half.

The Hoosiers trailed 44-37 on Valentin's fast-break layup with 8
minutes left but the Buckeyes built the lead back to 53-41 on a
baseline drive by Hoskins and a three-point play by Packer with
4:41 left.

Kim Wilburn had a steal early in the second half to set the Ohio
State career mark with her 327th steal.

"We won the game because when it came down to it, we executed
our offense, everybody took good shots and we had some good
[defensive] stops," Wilburn said.