PITTSBURGH - Turns out the turkey sandwiches bothered Ohio State a lot more than St. Francis (Pa.) did.
Jantel Lavender had 23 points and 16 rebounds and Sammy Prahalis added 14 points, 13 assists and six rebounds as second-seeded Ohio State beat St. Francis, 93-59, in an NCAA Tournament Dayton Regional first-round game yesterday.
Lavender, the three-time Big Ten player of the year, starting guard Tayler Hill, three reserves and numerous team personnel became ill after eating sandwiches following practice Saturday and missed the pregame shoot-around, but most of the Buckeyes (31-4) recovered by game time. "I didn't know what to expect," coach Jim Foster said.
He probably didn't expect this. Instead of looking sluggish or ill at ease, the Buckeyes reeled off runs of 11-0, 19-2 and 13-3 before halftime, taking control from the start and never allowing the Red Flash (17-15) to build any confidence or momentum.
"I'm feeling OK," Lavender said. "I was a little woozy at the start, but I can play."
The Red Flash had no one who could defend the 6-4 Lavender's post-up moves, Johnson's outside shooting or Prahalis' playmaking. Johnson had 18 points, shooting 4-for-8 from three-point range. Former Commack star Prahalis ran the offense, frequently in spectacular fashion.
Johnson hit a pair of three-pointers and Sarah Schulze made another as the Buckeyes seized an 11-0 lead with 2:11 gone. Prahalis set up one of the threes with a backward between-the-legs bounce pass. The Buckeyes led 32-9 at the midpoint of the first half before taking a 55-28 halftime lead.
Shavelle Little, a two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year, made all six of her shots, scored 14 points and had five steals, displaying the kind of depth the Buckeyes will need if they meet defending national champion Connecticut in the regional final. Said Prahalis, "She gave us a lot of energy, poking at the ball, getting loose balls and rebounds, and it really helped a lot."
"They have an opportunity to go pretty far," St. Francis coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl said. "Even someone who's not a fan can tell there's a big difference between a team from the Big Ten and a team from our conference . . . but we want to be the first team from the Northeast [Conference] to win an NCAA game."