Buckeyes rally from 18-point deficit, beat Penn State

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Ohio State had its only lead when it mattered the most.

Marscilla Packer grabbed a rebound and scored on a fadeaway jumper with two seconds left to lift the Buckeyes (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) to a 61-59 victory over Penn State on Sunday.

It was the first lead of the game for the Buckeyes (25-2, 15-1), who have won 16 straight games heading into the Big Ten tournament.

"The ball kind of just fell into my hands," Packer said. "Luckily, I was in the right spot and got the shot off."

Ohio State didn't have a field goal for nearly the first 11 minutes of the game and trailed by as many as 17 in the second half in front of an emotional Penn State crowd. Buckeyes coach Jim Foster said his team played well defensively early despite the
field-goal drought.

"In the second half, we inhaled, pulled up our shorts and just played," Foster said.

For a while, though, it seemed as though Penn State would pull off a huge upset in the midst of a visible distraction in the stands. About three dozen people protested against Lady Lions coach Rene Portland before and during the game, laying out a rainbow flag on three rows of empty seats and then waving the large banner during halftime.

The protest, which was peaceful, was related to a federal discrimination lawsuit filed by former Penn State player Jennifer Harris against Portland. Harris' lawsuit accused the coach of asking her to try to look more "feminine" and of maintaining a discriminatory policy against lesbians or those who she thought were lesbians. The university is also named in the suit.

Portland has denied the charges, and her supporters during responded to the protest before the game by holding up "We Believe in Rene" signs.

"Can't we just talk about basketball?" Portland said when asked to comment on the protesters. She has declined to comment all season about the allegations.

She didn't shy away from answering questions about the big lead Penn State frittered away.

With the score tied at 59, Jessica Davenport took an inbounds pass and wheeled in the lane toward the basket, but her shot bounced off the rim.

Packer grabbed the rebound and scored, raising her arms in the air as she raced back on defense. Penn State missed a desperation 3 and the Buckeyes celebrated.

"If they didn't chip away and chip away, I would have thought a different team showed up," Portland said.

Instead, it was the Buckeyes who prevailed after a furious 30-11 rally to end the game. Ohio State was already assured of the top seed in the conference tournament before the close win.

Penn State, which outrebounded the Buckeyes 33-28, missed a chance to lock up the seventh seed.

"I thought my kids played really hard," Portland said. "A lot of things were memorable."

But Ohio State's comeback was the biggest highlight. The Buckeyes missed their first nine shots as Penn State built a 24-8 lead after two 3-pointers by Brianne O'Rourke and another 3 from fellow freshman Mashea Williams.

"In the first half, we played embarrassing," Davenport said.

Ohio State got within 28-25 late in the first half after a three-point play by Davenport, but the Lady Lions stretched the lead to 48-31 with 14:06 left in the second half on a layup by Amanda Brown, who finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Ohio State then started to chip away at the lead again. After a three-point play by Davenport, who was playing with four fouls late, and a 3-pointer from the left corner by Packer, Davenport hit a short turnaround jumper to tie it at 59.

Davenport scored 17 of her 24 points in the first half.

When asked to comment about her supporters at the game, Portland, her voice cracking at times, said, "I really don't know how to answer you."

"I have given this school and these kids, and I will continue to give this school and these kids the best of Lady Lion basketball," she said.