The Ohio State women’s basketball team had already secured an outright Big Ten championship and the top seed in the conference tournament.
But the sixth-ranked Buckeyes found ending the regular season Sunday at Penn State as no easy task. OSU found behind the host Nittany Lions by as many as 17 points in the second half before rallying for a 61-59 win before 8,313 at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Buckeyes took their only lead of the game when guard Marscilla Packer grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a fadeaway jumper with two seconds left for the win. That shot helped Ohio State cap the game on a 30-11 run after the Lions moved up 48-31 with 13:58 left.
"The ball kind of just fell into my hands," Packer said. "Luckily, I was in the right spot and got the shot off."
Ohio State (25-2, 15-1) won their 16th straight game and will be the top seed in next weekend’s Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.
As OSU enters the postseason, this was a game to clearly forget. Ohio State fell behind 12-0 to start the game. The Buckeyes finally tallied when Tamarah Riley made 1 of 2 free throws with 11:46 left in the first half.
Jessica Davenport, who led the Buckeyes with 24 points and five rebounds, tallied OSU’s first field goal after the team had combined for nine misses. That came with 11:17 left in the first half and cut the PSU lead to 12-3. But the Lions scored the game’s next seven points and led 19-3 after Kamela Gissendanner hit a pair of free throws with 9:07 left in the half.
Ohio State engineered a 19-3 run – keyed by 12 points from Davenport and capped by a three-pointer from Stephanie Blanton – to cut the PSU lead to 26-22 with 1:15 left in the half. But Penn State still held on for a 32-25 halftime advantage.
"In the first half, we played embarrassing," Davenport said.
Penn State widened the gap in the first six minutes of the second half, going up 48-31 on a jumper by Amanda Brown with 13:58 left.
But this is when the Buckeyes dug in and somehow rallied to pull out the win. Packer and Debbie Merrill each had eight points and Davenport scored seven to power OSU’s big comeback in the final 13:42.
A Packer three-pointer cut the gap to 59-57 with 1:59 left. PSU’s Brianne O’Rourke then missed a shot, which Davenport rebounded. At OSU’s end, Davenport tallied with 1:06 left to tie the game at 59-59.
PSU had a pair of possessions after that, but Charity Renfro missed a shot with 47 seconds left and Adrienne Squire was whistled for a foul with nine seconds left.
Davenport then missed a potential game-winning shot, but Packer grabbed the rebound and stuck it in for the win. PSU’s O’Rourke missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.
"In the second half, we inhaled, pulled up our shorts and just played," said OSU coach Jim Foster.
PSU coach Rene Portland credited the Buckeyes for their dramatic comeback.
"If they didn't chip away and chip away, I would have thought a different team showed up," Portland said. "I thought my kids played really hard," Portland said. "A lot of things were memorable."
Merrill ended up with 13 points and seven rebounds for OSU. Packer scored eight points for the Buckeyes.
O’Rourke had 17 points, Brown scored 14 and Gissendanner had 12 for the Lions (12-15, 6-10).
* As the top seed in the Big Ten tournament, the Buckeyes go into the quarterfinal round on Friday. They will play the winner of the game between eighth-seeded Penn State and ninth-seeded Wisconsin (11-17, 5-11). That game is set for noon Friday at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
If the Buckeyes win, they will play in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Sun., March 5, and the championship game at 7 p.m. Mon., March 6. Comcast Sports Net Chicago will televise all Big Ten tournament games except the championship, which will be shown nationally by ESPN2.
* Sunday’s game at PSU was a backdrop to a peaceful protest against the school and Portland, who are defendants in a federal discrimination lawsuit alleging a discriminatory policy against players the venerable PSU coach felt were lesbians.
* With the win Sunday, Ohio State completed the season at 25-2 (.926). It is the first time Ohio State has finished a season with two losses or less since going 18-2 (.900) in 1973-74. Ohio State was 15-1 (.938) in 1972-73 and went undefeated at 7-0 in 1969-70. There was no postseason play in women’s basketball in 1969-70, 1972-73 or 1973-74.
* The .926 winning percentage currently ranks third all-time behind 1.000 (7-0) oin 1969-70 and .938 (15-1) in 1972-73.
* With the win Sunday over Penn State, Ohio State wrapped up its third all-time one-loss Big Ten season at 15-1. Ohio State previously lost just once in league play in 1983-84 (17-1, first in Big Ten) and 1986-87 (17-1 T-first). The Buckeyes went 18-0 in 1984-85 (first).
* The Buckeyes increased their current win-streak to 16 games, which rates third all-time. Ohio State won 17 consecutive games in 1975-76. The Ohio State record is 20-consecutive wins in the 1984-85 campaign.
* Ohio State now owns a three-game win streak over the Lady Lions, the longest in the series between the two schools. The Buckeyes improved to 3-16 in State College and 11-30 overall vs. Penn State.
* The win at Penn State Sunday marked the first victory for the Buckeyes at State College since a 70-65 triumph Dec. 30, 2001. The win served as the first for a Jim Foster-led Ohio State team.
* Kim Wilburn played in her 125th game at Ohio State Sunday vs. Penn State. She now is the all-time leader at OSU in games played. She surpassed Katie Smith and Lisa Negri, who both played from 1993-96, as the all-time leaders in games played at Ohio State.
* Davenport’s 24 points against Penn State extended her streak of games with 10 or more points to 47. She has scored 10-plus in 61 of her last 62 contests. The last time Davenport failed to score at least 10 points was a six-point effort vs. Liberty Jan. 9, 2005.