OSU Women End Big Ten Title Drought

Jim Foster cuts the nets down after OSU's victory

Sophomore center Jessica Davenport had 29 points and 16 rebounds as the Buckeyes turned back Penn State 69-58 to wrap up their first Big Ten championship since 1992-93. The game was played before a crowd of 17,525 at Value City Arena, the largest in the history of Big Ten women's basketball.

It got a little bit interesting toward the end, but nothing worth anything ever comes easy.

The Ohio State women's basketball team shrugged off a horrid start and played its way through some second-half turnover problems on its way to a 69-58 win over Penn State Sunday. The game was played before a near capacity crowd of 17,525 in Value City Arena, the largest crowd in the history of Big Ten women's basketball.

The win gave OSU its first Big Ten championship since the Final Four season of 1992-93. The fourth-ranked Buckeyes improved to 27-3 overall and 14-2 in Big Ten play, sharing the title with Michigan State (25-3, 14-2) and locking up the top seed in next weekend's Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.

"At the beginning of the season, you talk about your goals," said OSU coach Jim Foster, wrapping up his third year with the Buckeyes. "This would be some of those goals – playing before a crowd like this and winning a championship."

OSU sophomore center Jessica Davenport once again came up big. Davenport probably wrapped up the Big Ten player of the year award after going for 29 points and 16 rebounds. Davenport was 8 of 18 from the floor, dealing with double and triple team treatment all game long. She was a perfect 13 of 13 at the foul line.

Davenport, who also had a team-high four assists and six blocked shots, told her teammates before the game she hoped to end the day with a title.

"I told them, 'I really want to win. I've never won a championship,' " said Davenport, who ended the regular season as the Big Ten's leading scorer at 22 points per game.

When asked about Davenport's exploits, venerable PSU coach Rene Portland said, "I wish I had one like her."

Davenport got big support from senior guard Caity Matter and sophomore guard Brandie Hoskins. Matter made her final appearance at VCA a winning one, going out with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting.

"What a way to go out," Matter said. "A sellout crowd, a Big Ten championship -- there's nothing like this."

Hoskins added 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Stephanie Blanton was the only other OSU player to score, tallying seven points, five rebounds and two assists. OSU dominated the boards, outrebounding PSU 45-28.

Tanisha Wright stole the ball in the final seconds and made a shot at the buzzer to end up with 29 points for Penn State (18-9, 13-3), which was denied a piece of the championship.

After that play, though, the Buckeyes congratulated each other on the floor and were presented a Big Ten championship trophy. Thousands in the crowd stuck around to see the team celebrate and cut down the nets.

It was clear this championship meant something. But the Buckeyes, who are hopeful of receiving a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, have some bigger things in mind.

"We'll tuck this in our pocket and pull it out at the appropriate time," Foster said. "When we got here, we were talking about the potential. I thought this was a place you could do some significant things."

OSU avenged a 69-62 loss at Penn State on Dec. 30, snapping a four-game Nittany Lions win streak in the process.

But it was certainly not easy. OSU missed its first 11 shots from the floor and failed to score over the first seven minutes. But the Buckeyes' stellar defense allowed PSU to only move up 6-0 before Davenport tallied the first OSU points on a turnaround bank shot with 12:58 left in the half.

PSU still led 8-4 after Ashli Schwab hit a jumper in the lane with 9:39 left in the half. That's when OSU embarked on a 20-3 run over the next eight-plus minutes. Hoskins had six points and Matter and Blanton each had five during this critical stretch.

Davenport drew a huge roar when her hook shot with 6:56 left in the half gave OSU its first lead at 10-8. That was part of a stretch of 14 straight OSU points. PSU's Wright had a three-point play with 4:40 left in the half, but the Buckeyes charged on and capped their big run as Hoskins made a driving jumper on the baseline and got a layup off an offensive rebound before Davenport executed a nifty give and go with Matter, whose layup put the Buckeyes up 24-11 with 1:31 left in the half.

PSU's Jess Harris ended the run with a three-pointer with 1:05 left in the half. But Matter nailed a fadeaway jumper from the baseline at the halftime buzzer to put the Buckeyes up 26-14 at the intermission.

The Buckeyes maintained that lead over much of the first 10 minutes of the second half, still leading 48-34 after Davenport scored inside with 9:26 left.

But Penn State then turned up the heat on its signature fullcourt press and embarked on a 12-2 run to slice the OSU lead down to 50-46. Jess Strom had eight of her 12 points during this stretch, including the steal and layup that cut the lead to four with 5:54 left.

PSU got the lead down to four on three different occasions, but could draw no closer. Hoskins beat the press with a reverse layup that put OSU up 56-50 with 4:12 left.

Matter landed another crushing blow. The shot clock was dwindling when she came to the top of the key to get a pass from Hoskins. She fired and hit a 22-foot three-pointer to bring down the house and put the Buckeyes up 61-52 with 2:43 left. Hoskins then fed Matter perfectly for a layup to beat the press and put OSU up 63-54 with 2:14 left.

PSU never got closer than seven after that as the Buckeyes, who were a robust 21 of 24 (87.5 percent) at the foul line, made six of their last eight free throws in the final 1:41 to ice it.

Also Notable

* The Buckeyes are 70-23 all-time in Value City Arena and 45-4 at home under Foster.

* Ohio State finished 17-0 this season in games played in Columbus. The mark is the best record at home for any OSU women's basketball squad. The last time an Ohio State team was undefeated in Columbus was the 2002-03 season, when Foster's first OSU team defended its home court (14-0) for the first time since 1992-93. Nine Buckeye teams have gone undefeated in Columbus throughout program history.

* Ohio State's 27 wins is the most in a season since the 1992-93 season, when the Buckeyes finished 28-4.

* Ohio State is 9-2 this season against ranked opponents, including a 7-0 mark in Value City Arena against ranked foes.

* Penn State leads the all-time series with Ohio State, 30-9. The Buckeye win Sunday marks the first victory against the Lady Lions since the 2003 Big Ten Tournament.

* Davenport tallied her 10th double-double of the season. Davenport has 14 career double-doubles. Her 16 rebounds marks a career high, topping her previous best of 15, set three times, last vs. Indiana (Feb. 5, 2005).

* Davenport clocked her fifth-consecutive 40-minute game this season. She is the only OSU player to have played 40 minutes in a game this season and has played in nine 40-minute games in her two-year career.

* Davenport was 13-of-13 from the free-throw line, matching the school record set twice by Katie Smith, now an OSU program assistant.

* The attendance today of 17,525 is the largest crowd to see a women's basketball game at Ohio State. The largest crowd to watch a game before today was 13,320 on Feb. 6, 1988, when Ohio State defeated Iowa 58-54 in St. John Arena. The biggest crowd to watch a women's basketball game in Value City Arena before today was 11,467 on Feb. 14, 2001, when the Buckeyes fell 74-71 to Purdue in double overtime.

* The crowd also sets a Big Ten attendance record. Before today, the largest crowd to see a women's Big Ten basketball game was 17,142 on Jan. 20, 2002, when Minnesota played at Wisconsin.

* The attendance today is the third-largest crowd to watch an NCAA women's college basketball game this season. Only Vanderbilt at Tennessee (18,643, 2/13/05) and Arkansas at Tennessee (18,633, 1/13/05) produced larger crowds.

* The Ohio State vs. Wisconsin men's game had a crowd today of 17,763. The two crowds combined for a total of 35,288 is second- largest crowd to watch a doubleheader of Ohio State events. The biggest combined crowd to see an Ohio State doubleheader was 35,950 when the men's basketball team played Minnesota and the men's hockey team played Michigan on Jan. 23, 1999.

* Ohio State was the recipient of the third annual Big Ten SuperFan Cup in recognition of its marketing and promotional campaign that helped boost attendance at women's basketball games over the 2004-05 season. OSU increased its home conference home game attendance by 81.9 percent this season as the Buckeyes welcomed an average of 7,259 fans to eight league contests compared to last year's eight-game average of 3,991.

Big Ten Tournament Info

The Buckeyes split their season series with MSU, but got the top seed because of their superior record (1-1) against Penn State than MSU's (0-1).

OSU will open Big Ten tournament play against the winner of the 8-9 game between Wisconsin and Indiana at noon Friday at Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse.

A win in that quarterfinal would put the Buckeyes in the semifinals at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, March 6. The championship game is set for 7 p.m. Monday, March 7. The first three rounds will be televised by Fox Sports Chicago (and presumably Fox Sports Ohio). The title game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN2.

Seeds and pairings for the NCAA Tournament will not be announced until Sunday, March 13.

Here are the pairings for the 2005 Big Ten tournament:

Opening Round; Thursday

Wisconsin (8 seed, 11-15, 5-11) vs. Indiana (9 seed, 10-17, 3-13), 3 p.m.

Illinois (7 seed, 16-11, 7-9) vs. Northwestern (10 seed, 5-24, 2-14), 5:30 p.m.

Iowa (6 seed, 19-8, 8-8) vs. Michigan (11 seed, 5-22, 1-15), 8 p.m.

Quarterfinals; Friday

Ohio State (1 seed, 27-3, 14-2) vs. Wisconsin-Indiana winner, noon

Minnesota (4 seed, 22-6, 12-4) vs. Purdue (5 seed, 16-11, 9-7), 2:30 p.m.

Michigan State (2 seed, 25-3, 14-2) vs. Illinois-Northwestern winner, 6 p.m.

Penn State (3 seed, 18-9, 13-3) vs. Iowa-Michigan winner, 8:30 p.m.

Semifinals; Sun., March 6

3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Championship Game; Mon., March 7

7 p.m.

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