Cleveland native Jantel Lavender led Ohio State (8-2) with 18 points and 11 rebounds, her 10th double-double in as many games this season, and Ashlee Trebilcock and Brittany Johnson both added 12.
After 18th-ranked Ohio State jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the first four minutes, the Buckeyes seemed to get careless at both ends, and the Vikings crawled back into it by scoring 11 of the next 16 points in the contest over a span of six minutes.
The visitors gained confidence and momentum and began to go on the attack as the half wore on, but they never quite caught their hosts.
The Vikings trimmed the Ohio State lead to two, 15-13, at the midway point of the first half, but the Buckeyes dominated the rest of the period.
They outscored the visitors 23-5 in the last 10 minutes, beginning with a Lavender layup and a three-pointer by Johnson.
Along with Lavender’s deuce, Johnson and Trebilcock both had five during the run. Shavelle Little added a pair of baskets, as did Star Allen, and Cherise Daniel closed the half with a three-point play.
Trebilcock had 10 points at the half to lead all scorers, and the Buckeyes held a 38-18 lead.
Ohio State committed 10 turnovers but forced the same number, and the Buckeyes had 13 assists on 16 field goals.
In short order, they expanded their 20-point halftime lead to 29 in the first four minutes. They led 54-24 with 12:20 to go, and the rest looked like a formality to most of the 1,756 in attendance.
An important onlooker did not feel that way, however.
“I’m probably going to have to stop playing as many people as I’m playing,” Ohio State head coach Jim Foster said after watching his team let a 30-point lead shrink to 14 late in the contest. “You’ve got to have some synchronization on offense. The ball has got to reverse and the people are going to have to within the framework of their role do their jobs. I think we took entirely too many jump shots tonight, as evidenced by six foul shots. One of the traits of this basketball team is taking the ball to the basket and getting to the foul line, and I don’t think we were aggressive in that manner tonight.”
The Buckeyes entered the game averaging more than 21 free throws per game but attempted and made just six against the Vikings (4-5).
“I would think that if I had the opportunity to come in the game and I was playing the amount of minutes that I was playing tonight, that I would be so excited that I would be all over the place defensively,” Foster said. “And I think we had a couple of kids who went out there tonight and just wanted to get shots up. We didn’t play the way we needed to play to be a successful basketball team.”
He paused, then added, “In the long run.”
“The first 30 minutes, I thought we did some decent things,” he said.
Lavender, who despite being just a sophomore has evolved into one of the team’s leaders, admitted to sharing her coach’s frustration and explained why.
“Seeing that we had a 30-point lead and we only ended up winning by 14,” she said. “We’ve got to keep that fire and that intensity.”
The Buckeyes will not have to wait long to redeem themselves in the eyes of their coach. They return to action back in their normal home gym, Value City Arena on campus, for a game with visiting Delaware State that is set for a 7 p.m. tipoff.
Ohio State hosted the Vikings at the downtown home of the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL in preparation for hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament in March.