WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Purdue gave its NCAA tournament hopes a much-needed boost.
FahKara Malone scored a career-high 23 points, and Purdue beat No. 19 Ohio State 68-67 to remain in a tie for the Big Ten lead Thursday night.
The win was important because the Boilermakers (13-10, 9-3 Big Ten) hadn't beaten a ranked team this season. The Boilermakers started the season 6-8, and hit rock bottom with a 100-50 loss to Connecticut, one of their three losses to top-10 teams.
Malone said the experience against the best teams in college basketball is paying off. Purdue has won four straight, and is 7-2 since the loss to Connecticut.
"This is a testimony to that first half of the season, playing all those ranked teams, playing all those tough teams," she said. "It definitely just prepared us for the most important part of the season, which is conference."
Malone also made 5 of 7 3-pointers and had five assists and five steals for the Boilermakers in what she called one of her best games.
"It's right up there, I'm not going to lie."
Danielle Campbell had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and LaKisha Freeman and Keshia Mosley both scored 10 points for Purdue.
Ohio State freshman center Jantel Lavender scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
"I think she played with a lot of heart, and a lot of determination. She played like she wanted to win the game," Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. "I can't say that we had enough of those players out there."
Ashlee Trebilcock scored 14 points for the Buckeyes (17-6, 8-4), who fell to third place in the conference.
Lavender caused problems for Purdue with her range, mobility and ability to finish around the basket. She hit several 15-footers.
"You just try to get hands straight up and body her up and smother her," Campbell said. "She's a great player and she had a great night tonight, but we were able to get the win anyway."
Freeman put Purdue up 68-67 with an off-balance, driving layup with 20 seconds left.
"I tried to use my body," she said. "A friendly roll helped out."
Ohio State had a chance to win in the closing seconds, but Purdue's Kalika France stole the ball, and the Boilermakers ran out the clock.
A bucket and a 3-pointer by Trebilcock helped the Buckeyes trim Purdue's lead to 58-57. Sarah Schulze scored from in close to give the Buckeyes a 59-58 lead with just under 7 minutes to go, and Lavender quickly followed with two baskets to increase the edge to 63-60.
The Buckeyes maintained the lead until Malone drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put Purdue ahead, 66-65 with 1:24 to play.
Lavender answered with a hook shot off the glass with a minute to go, and Ohio State took a 67-66 lead. The Buckeyes did not score again.
Foster said his freshmen played well. Schulze and Alison Jackson both played significant minutes in the second half after sitting the whole first half. He pulled them both in the final minute and regretted it later.
"I just wasn't happy with our upperclassmen," he said. "Our freshmen are getting better, you've seen them getting better. Probably, the mistake I made was putting the veterans back in the game. I should have let the freshmen finish out the game."
Ohio State took a 27-13 lead in the first half before Purdue went on a 12-0 run. The Boilermakers held the Buckeyes scoreless for 5 1/2 minutes to cut their deficit to 27-25.
Ohio State led 31-30 before a 7-0 run pushed the advantage to 38-30.
Purdue scored the last four points of the half, but Ohio State led 40-36 at the break. Lavender had 18 points at halftime and Malone had 17.
Foster was upset with the way his team defended Malone.
"She made shots, but I don't necessarily think we guarded her very well," he said. "I'll give them the last one, maybe. But you reach a certain point when you have to take it personally that someone's making those shots."
Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said her team has matured throughout the season.
"I'm just really proud of this group of ladies," she said. "We were really mentally and physically focused. We've been playing good basketball. We knew we had to play a complete game tonight against a very good Ohio State team."