Ohio State punched a ticket to Dayton with a gem of a second half.
The fourth-seeded Buckeyes beat No. 5 seed Georgia Tech 67-60 on Monday night in a second-round NCAA women’s basketball tournament game in Columbus.
Georgia Tech emerged from a hectic first half with a one-point lead after trailing for the first 19-plus minutes.
As advertised, the Yellow Jackets (24-11) came out pressing from the opening minutes, although it did not seem to bother the Buckeyes much.
The first time they saw it, they broke it for a wide-open three-pointer by Brittany Johnson for the game’s first basket.
Continuing to pick apart the press, the Buckeyes (24-9) built a 16-8 lead in the opening 91/2 minutes as Georgia Tech struggled shooting on its end.
After settling for jump shots early, the Yellow Jackets began to get their offense flowing and managed to get to the basket for a couple of layups as the half wore on, then they turned to freshman reserve Tyuanna Marshall, who got hot in the final four minutes as Georgia Tech ripped off a half-ending 8-0 run that put them in front.
Marshall had six of the eight points in the spurt, including a bank shot to get her going then a pair of foul line jumpers in the final minute.
At the half, she led Georgia Tech with 10 points.
Freshman Ashley Adams, frequently left alone under the basket as the Jackets concentrated on the Buckeyes’ more established stars, had 10 to top Ohio State’s scoring in the first half.
Meanwhile, her partner in the post, Jantel Lavender, scored only four points and picked up a controversial technical foul after getting tangled up with Georgia Tech’s Chelsea Regins. Regins also was assessed an intentional, sending Lavender into a rage that required Prahalis to step between her and the official.
Lavender got plenty of chances to take out her frustrations in the second half, however.
Metra Walthour stretched the Georgia Tech lead to four with a three-pointer on the first possession of the second half, but Ohio State answered that with a trey from Johnson and a hook from close range by Lavender that put the Buckeyes back on top 34-33.
That was the first of eight second-half baskets from the Buckeyes’ All-American, who took over as the Buckeyes built a 13-point lead by tearing through the press and finishing at the rim.
Things got so bad for the Georgia Tech, head coach MaChelle Joseph eventually called off the press.
“We were getting layups,” said Prahalis, who had 16 points and eight assists. “I would have pulled it off, too.”
The Ohio State advantage peaked at 53-40 as the Yellow Jackets endured a scoring drought of 5:08.
Sasha Goodlett brought that to an end with a basket in the post at the 6:33 mark, but by then the Buckeyes were too far out to be caught.
The partisan crowd of 3,881 at St. John Arena drew a couple of tense breathes when Prahalis and Hill both missed front ends of one-and-one situations while Ohio State protected a 61-54 lead and a minute to go, but after Montgomery clanged three-pointer, Prahalis closed things out with four consecutive freebies and Hill followed with two more.
“I thought Samantha Prahalis was exceptional today the way she led her team and the plays she was able to make,” said Joseph, herself a former star Big Ten guard for Purdue in the early 1990s.
Prahalis’ playmaking helped Lavender to a huge second half. The four-time Big Ten player of the year finished with a game-high 21 points, including 17 after halftime. She broke Courtney Paris’ record for career double-figure scoring games by notching her 135th, a total that spans her entire career.
“I thought she was more aggressive in the second half,” Joseph said. “She was passive in the first half. When we were tracking her, they were throwing the ball to (Adams) in the paint. She camped out there waiting for the ball.
The Yellow Jackets had hoped to take away Lavender’s deadly 15-foot jump shot, but their success at that led Ohio State head coach Jim Foster to reposition her.
“The second half, they moved her inside, which I thought was a good move because we couldn’t guard her there,” Joseph said. “Once she got on the block and started posting up, we couldn’t contain her.”
The Yellow Jackets had a dismal shooting night, particularly from long range. They were 28 for 72 from the field, including an ugly 2 for 17 mark (11.8 percent) from the three-point line.
“We wanted to have tighter defense and push the ball up the floor,” Lavender said of halftime adjustments. “Sammy did a great job pushing the ball up the floor quickly, which I don’t think we did great in the first half.”
Georgia Tech snagged 18 offensive rebounds but turned them into only 16 points, the same point total they managed off of 21 Ohio State turnovers.
Walthour led Georgia Tech with 15 points and Sasha Goodlett added 12. Marshall scored two points in the second half and finished with 12 for the game.
Adams finished with 10 while OSU guard Tayler Hill had 11 points and five assists.
The Yellow Jackets were denied their first Sweet 16 appearance in school history while Ohio State earned its second in three years.
The Buckeyes advanced to face No. 1 seed Tennessee at the University of Dayton Arena on Saturday at a time to be announced.