Davenport leads short-handed Buckeyes to win over Hoosiers

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ohio State refused to crack.

Already playing without all-conference guard Brandie Hoskins, and losing their other starting guard, Marscilla Packer, early in the second half Friday night, the Buckeyes (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today; No. 5 AP) survived by going inside.

Three-time conference player of the year Jessica Davenport scored 30 points, and forward Star Allen added 15 points and 13 rebounds to help the Buckeyes pull away from ninth-seeded Indiana 72-60 in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.

"We're an inside-outside basketball team," Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. "When you have a pretty good center, it seems like a pretty good idea to throw the ball inside."

After Packer left the court for the second time with what appeared to be a left ankle injury, the Buckeyes had no choice; they had to go inside.

Ohio State (27-2) -- winners of three straight conference titles, last year's tournament championship and 33 of its last 34 Big Ten games -- isn't sure yet whether Packer will play in Sunday night's semifinal against fifth-seeded Penn State (15-15), a 61-49 winner over Illinois.

She initially was hurt on the first possession of the game after getting caught in a heap of players scrambling for a loose ball. Packer crumpled to the ground, clutching at the ankle, then limped into the locker room before eventually returning.

Less than four minutes into the second half, Packer, pulled up lame again while running. This time, she needed two trainers to help her off the court and did not return.

Foster said he was uncertain how severe Packer's injury was.

If the injury is serious, it could create another impediment to the Buckeyes' national title hopes. Hoskins has already been lost for the season because of a torn Achilles' tendon.

"We don't know yet," Foster said hours after it was announced he's agreed to a contract extension that will keep him at Ohio State through 2014-15. "But we have players. It's an opportunity for somebody else to step up and play."

On Friday, the Buckeyes resorted to their biggest strength -- exploiting the middle. Davenport demanded the ball inside and when she didn't cause havoc for Indiana's defense, Allen did.

"Packer is the X-factor in our opinion," Indiana coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. "When she's healthy and ready to go, there could have been a different game on their side."

The Hoosiers (18-13) were led by Kim Roberson with 15 points and Sarah McKay with 14 in losing their seventh straight to Ohio State, a streak that dates to 2003.

This loss may have been more damaging than most since Indiana couldn't get past the depleted Buckeyes and impress the NCAA tournament committee.

The Hoosiers, who have only eight scholarship players on the roster, had won three of four entering Friday, including an impressive victory over Iowa on Thursday.

Now they may to settle for the WNIT.

"If someone would want us to be a representative in the postseason," Legette-Jack said, "... I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm going to continue to believe in the possibility."

With Packer, the Buckeyes looked like themselves. Without her, they lost their composure and helped spark Indiana's rally from an 18-point second-half deficit.

Ohio State finally wore down the pesky Hoosiers late in the first half with a 7-0 run that gave the Buckeyes a 31-22 lead.

They opened the second half by scoring six straight points and took advantage of a five-minute span in which the Hoosiers missed 15 consecutive shots to build a 43-25 lead.

Then Packer went down and everything changed.

The Hoosiers chiseled away, getting to 62-56 with 4:33 left.

But Allen and Davenport combined to score six straight points to seal the outcome.

"My teammates know I'm able to score inside," Davenport said. "So the game plan is just ball movement and execution."