WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Jessica Davenport and Debbie Merrill
overwhelmed Oakland with their size and athleticism. Fortunately
for Ohio State, the two-woman tandem was all it needed Sunday
Davenport and Merrill combined for 42 points and nearly
two-thirds of Ohio State's baskets to lead the top-seeded Buckeyes
past the 16th-seeded Golden Grizzlies 68-45.
"Jessica and I were really aggressive," Merrill said. "Our
teammates were looking for us and throwing it over the top."
Ohio State used an atypical strategy to win its 20th straight,
taking over the nation's longest active winning streak when both
Bowling Green and Coppin State lost Sunday.
Instead of relying on their usually balanced inside-outside
game, the Buckeyes (29-2) relied on a huge size disparity by
repeatedly throwing lob passes inside to Davenport and letting
Merrill work 1-on-1 when Davenport was double-teamed.
The result was predictable.
Davenport had a double-double and Merrill connected on 7-of-8
shots in the first half alone. Davenport, the Big Ten's player of
the year, finished with 19 points and 18 rebounds, setting a school
record for an NCAA Tournament game despite sitting out 10 minutes.
Merrill had a season-high 23 points, four rebounds and four
Together, Merrill and Davenport combined to hit 20 of 29 from
the field while the rest of the Buckeyes were 12 of 40.
Davenport and Merrill were dominant enough to send the Buckeyes
into the second round of the tournament for the fourth straight
year. They'll play eighth-seeded Boston College, a 78-61 winner
over Notre Dame, on Tuesday night.
The Buckeyes also tied the school record for most consecutive
wins in school history and moved within one of matching their
single-season victory record.
But when the Buckeyes had trouble offensively, they just
continued to look for Davenport and Merrill.
"We were having difficulty knocking down 3-pointers and any
perimeter shots," guard Ashley Allen said. "But both Jess and Deb
shot well, so why not just let them go to work?"
Ohio State's strategy was obvious almost from the opening tip.
Davenport routinely exploited her four to 5-inch height
advantage by scoring Ohio State's first eight points as it broke to
a 10-2 lead.
When Oakland tried to adjust, the Buckeyes simply dumped the
ball to Merrill. She scored six points in an 8-3 run that gave the
Buckeyes a 25-10 lead midway through the first half.
Sixteenth-seeded Oakland (15-16), the Mid-Continent champs which
was making its second NCAA appearance, had no answers inside. They
were led by Nicole Piggott with 14 points and eight rebounds, while
Anne Hafeli added 13 points.
But Oakland was outscored 48-24 in the paint, shot only 30.5
percent from the field and were outrebounded 51-33.
"They did a nice job of pounding it in against us," Oakland
coach Beckie Francis said. "Sometimes it's like it's not fair.
It's like, take out the 6-5 kid and let's have a game."
Little changed in the second half.
After building a 35-20 halftime lead, Davenport and Merrill
opened the second half by scoring five straight points to make it
The Grizzlies only got as close as 16 the rest of the way as
Davenport and Merrill continued to dominate the post until they
left the game late.
But Merrill expected more from the Buckeyes.
"We were kind of out of sync," she said. "We didn't
communicate as well as we usually do. We're going to have to pick