With Michigan State losing earlier in the day, Ohio State (22-5, 13-3) grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with the victory, and with two games left the Buckeyes are one win away from clinching at least a share of their fifth straight conference championship. Victories against Wisconsin on Thursday (7 p.m. start) and Penn State next Sunday (4 p.m., Big Ten Network) will bring an outright title.
Ohio State reached such a point in the standings thanks to huge games from Star Allen and Brittany Johnson with Jantel Lavender, Samantha Prahalis and a wealth of others playing excellent supporting roles.
Much like in the first matchup of the two teams, a 59-51 OSU win at home Feb. 1, Ohio State erased an early deficit just before halftime.
They led by 10 nine minutes in, and were still up seven after Jamie Braun made a three-pointer for IU give the Hoosiers a 31-24 lead with four-and-a-half minutes to go, but the Buckeyes closed the half on a 9-2 run.
At the end of a semi-fast break, Johnson fed Maria Moeller for a wide-open three from the right corner, and the junior buried the shot to make it 31-27.
Indiana’s Kim Roberson drove into the lane for a layup, then Allen answered with a crucial offensive rebound and layup.
Moeller swished a 15-foot jump shot to cut the lead to two and Allen tied the game at 33 with a bank shot from about 12 feet away with seven seconds left before halftime.
The Hoosiers scored six of the first nine points in the second half to open a 39-36 lead, but Ohio State took control by outscoring the hosts 14-2 over the next five minutes.
Ohio State offense looked stagnant early in the second half, but Shavelle Little came to the rescue by driving through the IU matchup zone for a layup to cut the lead to one and start the decisive spurt.
Lavender then found Allen on a high-low play for a layup to give Ohio State the lead, and the Buckeyes used defense to push the run to six. Prahalis made a steal deep in one corner and passed ahead to Allen, who ran the floor to create her own fast break, one she finished with a layup.
Amber Jackson pulled the Hoosiers within one by knocking down a short shot in the lane, but Ohio State scored the next eight in a row.
Prahalis made a pair of free throws, Lavender banked in a shot from close range, Prahalis drove past everyone for a layup and Allen made a pair of free throws to account for the scoring in the spurt.
Later the lead reached 10 for the first time when Allen made another steal near halfcourt and raced to the other end for an easy one.
That made the score 55-45 Buckeyes with the clock already having ticked below 10 minutes, but shortly afterward the OSU faithful had to hold their breath when Lavender went to the bench with her fourth foul.
She fouled Jori Davis shooting, and the IU guard made one free throw to cut the lead to nine.
There was no need to worry, as it turned out.
Without Lavender, the Buckeyes extended the lead to 11 on a couple of occasions.
The Hoosiers’ last gasp came in the last two minutes when Prahalis fouled out and the Hoosiers put together an 8-3 mini-run to pull within 72-67.
Roberson made a driving layup and Ashlee Mells and Whitney Thomas both made three-pointers for the Hoosiers, but their hope was short-lived.
Johnson made a pair of free throws, then after Mells badly missed another attempt from beyond the arc, the Buckeye sophomore added two more freebies.
She eclipsed her career high and finished with 18 points while Allen led all scorers with 22.
Lavender and Prahalis also scored in double figures with 12 and 10, respectively, and Lavender added a dozen rebounds for her 31st double-double.
Davis scored 17 for the Hoosiers (17-9, 10-7) while Jackson had14, Roberson added 11 and Thomas had 10.