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Lavender leads Buckeyes with 33 points, 14 boards

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- California coach Joanne Boyle called it the "Sammy and Jantel Show," and the curtain went up just when No. 3 Ohio State got into trouble.

Lavender broke out of a shooting lump to score 11 points during a big second-half surge, and the Buckeyes beat California (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) on Sunday 83-71 in the finals of the Buckeye Classic.

Prahalis had four of her career-high 14 assists during the run and also started it out with a driving layup.

"I'm always confident in my team," Prahalis said. "I knew we were about to make a run soon. We wanted to make something happen. Jantel was hot, so I just kept feeding her."

After hitting 5 of 15 shots in the semifinals, Lavender made all four of her field goals and both free throws as the Buckeyes (8-0) used a 15-0 run to take a 60-47 lead.

"They were really leaning on my left shoulder," said Lavender, who finished with 33 points and 14 rebounds. "They left [the right side] wide open. That was an advantage I had."

California (3-2), which lost to its second top-10 team in eight days, was led by Alexis Gray-Lawson's 25 points. DeNesha Stallworth added 13 points and Gennifer Brandon 12.

Prahalis had 14 points to go with her 14 assists, while Sarah Schulze scored 15 points, all on 3-pointers.

But when the Buckeyes fell behind for the first time, they went to their top two players.

"It's not that you have to play a perfect game, but you've got to play close to perfect," Cal coach Joanne Boyle said. "They know their identity. Eventually it's going to become the 'Sammy and Jantel Show' and that's what it became for a while."

Gray-Lawson came away impressed with Prahalis' free-styling play. She frequently makes no-look or behind-the-back passes, and likes nothing more than to streak toward the rim and put her slight, 5-foot-7 frame in jeopardy.

"She brings a different element to the game," Gray-Lawson said. "You only see guys that are that flashy."

Lavender was selected the tournament's MVP. In the title game, she hit 11 of 22 shots from the field and 11 of 12 free throws. Prahalis joined her on the all-tournament team.

With the Bears ahead 47-45 -- their only lead of the game -- Prahalis slashed through the lane to hit a tying layup at the 17:33 mark. Cal missed its first shot and then had six consecutive turnovers while the Buckeyes, and especially Lavender, took over.

Lavender hit a stepback 12-foot jumper along the left baseline to give Ohio State a lead it would not relinquish, then took a Prahalis pass and hit a jumper from the elbow. After she made two free throws, guard Shavelle Little muscled inside against the Bears' tall and young frontcourt for an offensive rebound and put it in for a 55-47 lead.

With Cal continuing to have problems with Ohio State's defensive pressure at the other end, Lavender then hit another stepback jumper and was fouled, hitting the free throw. She closed the run with a basket inside.

"They just know their strength and they went to them," Boyle said. "We struggled to score because we were turning the ball over. That just gave them easy looks and gave them momentum."

After the Ohio State spurt, the Bears never got closer than 11 points.

The games were played at aging St. John Arena because Value City Arena wasn't available.

Foster was pleased that the tight game could be added to the Buckeyes' resume. Rather than hand-pick weak opponents for Ohio State's tournament, he prefers difficult games.

"I look at this as an away game," he said. "The only thing similar to a home game is we sleep in our own beds. Our home is Value City Arena; that's where we practice and play our games. Putting us in this environment against a good team is something that is going to prepare us for what's ahead."