8:00 PM ET, February 23, 2006
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio State coach Jim Foster climbed gingerly up the stepladder, scissors in hand. It was only six rungs, but it seemed to take a long time to get to the top.Jessica Davenport scored 20 points to lead Ohio State (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today; No. 6 AP) to a 67-58 victory over Purdue (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today; No. 12 AP) on Thursday night, giving the Buckeyes their first outright Big Ten title in two decades."Winning it is great," Foster said. "We shared it with a pretty good team last year (Michigan State) and we had to go 14-2 to do that. We beat some really good teams this year, including arguably four of the best down the stretch."The victory -- Ohio State's 15th in a row since losing 61-59 at Purdue on Jan. 1 -- gave the Buckeyes (24-2, 14-1) a two-game lead in the conference with one to play.A crowd of 7,174 chanted "Big Ten champs" in the final seconds as Ohio State locked up its first outright conference title since the 1985-86 season."Coming in my freshman year we were a .500 team," said Ashley Allen, one of five seniors playing their final home game. "Ohio State hasn't done it since the 1980s, so it means a lot."Brandie Hoskins added 19 points and Debbie Merrill 13 for the Buckeyes, who scored their final 14 points on foul shots."Since this was my last year, I really wanted to go out with a bang," said Merrill, a transfer from Cincinnati who sat out last season. "This was really big for me."Ohio State was 19 of 27 at the line to Purdue's 6-for-9."We practice that all the time, hitting free throws at crunch time," Hoskins said.Katie Gearlds led the Boilermakers (22-5, 12-3) with 19 points, with Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton adding 13. The Boilermakers have lost two straight, including a costly 63-61 overtime lost to Indiana at home on Sunday.The Boilermakers were unable to get any offense in the paint or even within 12 feet of the basket against the Buckeyes, the nation's stingiest defense at 51.3 points per game. With the 6-foot-5 Davenport patrolling the lane along with Merrill, Purdue was forced to shoot from the perimeter."We just didn't have that tandem," Purdue coach Kristy Curry said. "They had two and we had one [post player]. That was the difference from the first game. Debbie Merrill is much more of a presence right now."The Buckeyes, up by seven at the half, stretched the lead to 39-28 in the opening 5 minutes of the second half only to have the Boilermakers pull within three points twice. Widsom-Hylton's two free throws with 7:29 left cut the lead to 48-45. But the Buckeyes responded on Merrill's leaning bank shot that ended up being a three-point play.After a Purdue turnover, Allen pinpointed a pass to Davenport for another basket inside to make it 53-45 with just under 6 minutes remaining -- the Buckeyes' final field goal. She scored 14 in the second half."I was being more active, more aggressive," Davenport said of her second-half surge. "I was able to see what they were doing in the first half and then I tried to make myself more available in the second half and tried to get more rebounds."Gearlds hit a 3-pointer to pull the Boilermakers to 53-48 before Hoskins -- a 48-percent shooter at the line -- hit four consecutive free throws for a 57-48 lead with 2:21 left.Purdue never got closer than six points again."We cut it to five and then to three and I thought we had a chance," Curry said. "But you've got to make plays down the stretch and we were unable to do that."Outrebounded in the first meeting, the Buckeyes controlled the boards 32-27, with Davenport grabbing 10."I thought we played terrific defensively -- and well enough offensively," Foster said. "I like the fact that Jess came back aggressive in the second half and that Debbie Merrill stayed aggressive throughout the game. And Brandie's getting better."Davenport was hemmed in on all sides in the first half, managing just five shots. But Hoskins scored 10 points primarily on bursts through the lane or cuts across the baseline.Allen, who finished with seven points, six assists, five steals and three rebounds, was the leader on defense, with four steals as the Buckeyes took a 30-23 lead at the break.The Buckeyes improved to 16-0 with Allen in the starting lineup.In the earlier meeting, Davenport managed just 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting. This time, she played better and had a lot more help."They're a great basketball team -- the most talented team in the Big Ten," Curry said. "Give 'em credit."
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||22-49 (.449)||22-48 (.458)|
|3P Made-Attempted||8-17 (.471)||4-11 (.364)|
|FT Made-Attempted||6-9 (.667)||19-27 (.704)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||22 (0/0)||11 (0/0)|