Jantel Lavender scores 24 as Ohio State upends Michigan State

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Michigan State (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) was on a 14-game winning streak and No. 24 Ohio State was down in the dumps and its shooting was so bad it couldn't throw a basketball into the nearby Olentangy River.

Then each reversed course.

Jantel Lavender had 24 points and the Buckeyes broke out of their rare slump on Sunday to roll over the Spartans, 67-53.

"It was kind of like the bad spell was behind us," Lavender said. "But our team's so used to not losing that it was kind of hard to come out of that slump. We had to come together and be accountable for ourselves. ... We were all on the same page; we were more cohesive than we had been in past games."

The Spartans (16-2, 4-1 Big Ten) had not lost since their third game of the season on Nov. 19 at No. 2 Baylor. The Buckeyes (11-6, 2-3), the six-time defending conference champs, had dropped six of nine since a 7-0 start.

"Losing is the worst. We have to scratch our way back," said Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis, who chipped in with nine points, seven rebounds and five assists. "I hate being [in this slump], but I don't mind it because it's either you're going to fall or you're going to scratch back up. Tonight we just stuck together. It was like we were playing for each other."

After weeks of shooting poorly, Ohio State faded near the end to shoot 43 percent from the field while the Spartans had their worst shooting game of the year, hitting just 29 percent -- including making only 2 of 23 behind the arc.

"Oh, I knew we were walking into a hornets' nest," said Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant, who was unhappy with about everything about her own team. "They were in a position where, by far, no question, it was a must win. They did what they had to do."

It was Ohio State's first victory over a top-10 opponent since beating No. 3 Oklahoma on Dec. 12, 2006.

Down just 33-29 at the break, Michigan State missed its first nine shots of the second half. When Ohio State's Tayler Hill, who finished with 17 points, and Brittany Johnson hit 3-pointers, all of a sudden the lead was 39-29.

The Spartans continued to misfire from all over the court. Their cause was further hurt when center Lykendra Johnson picked up her fourth foul on a reach-in 30 feet from the basket with 13:41 left.

The Buckeyes built the lead to 17 before cruising to the finish.

It has been a curious collapse for Ohio State. With five starters back from a team that went 31-5 a year ago, the season got off to a promising start and then -- nothing went right.

Just over 5 weeks ago, the Buckeyes were ranked No. 6 after a 7-0 start. Since then they had lost six of nine while suffering through some miserable shooting. They were shooting 49 percent from the field and 29 percent behind the arc while unbeaten; since then they were 10 percentage points worse from the field and at 22 percent on 3-pointers.

Coach Jim Foster said the difference against Michigan State was the Buckeyes finally hit some shots and got tougher.

"I hate going through this. I hate it," Foster added. "But I also like part of it. Because you get to measure yourself, measure your friends, measure your character. It's so easy to jump off. It's only the resilient who fight back. So we started that."

Ohio State lost starting forward Sarah Schulze to a knee injury in the first half. Foster said he was not optimistic about what the medical tests will show.

Michigan State, which was led by Cetera Washington's 12 points, was trying to set a school record with its 11th straight Big Ten win. Instead, the Spartans now must regroup.

"I definitely felt like that fire and fire wasn't there today, as it had been," Merchant said. "We were competing and really getting after it at the defensive end and I thought our frustration with the offense led to poor defensive execution as well."

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes may have learned something.

"We were desperate for a win, by any means necessary," Lavender said. "We know how we have to play from now on, the energy you have to play with."