These days t-shirts have replaced the wreathes for champions to wear, but even though senior guard Ashlee Trebilcock already has a few, she said donning another with "Big Ten Champions" on it felt very nice.
“I’ll add it to the collection,” she said with a laugh.
In front of 5,686 fans, Trebilcock closed out her Value City Arena career with just three points and a steal as a recurring knee problem continues to hamper her from time to time, but the way her fellow senior played along with a very special sophomore made victory possible.
Star Allen, a senior forward from Columbus, scored 25 points, a total second in the game only to teammate Jantel Lavender, who likely clinched her second Big Ten player of the year award in as many seasons with a 28-point, 12-rebound performance.
The dynamic duo inside was much too much for the Lady Lions (11-17, 6-12) to handle.
Penn State coach Coquese Washington put her team in a zone defense, a strategy used effectively by previous opponents but not Sunday.
“We had some very good ball movement and some opportunistic spacing,” Ohio State head coach Jim Foster said. “Star and Jantel were playing catch a little bit, which is a good thing.”
The success against the zone came in contrast to earlier in the season, when zones became a favorite way for teams to slow down Lavender and Allen while cutting off point guard Samantha Prahalis’ drives to the basket and forcing her along with the rest of the team’s guards to make outside shots.
Washington was as aware as anyone else that had been effective.
“I know, what the heck, you know?” she said. “Then they blistered us against the zone, so I don’t know. That was our game plan coming in, to play the zone, and I think they probably recognized that we were going to play a little bit of zone and obviously prepared for it and they did a great job against a zone and made us come out of it.”
Ohio State shot 51.6 percent (16 for 31) in the first half, including 3 of 7 treys, and opened a 44-28 lead.
The 14th-ranked Buckeyes (24-5, 15-3) led by as many as 20 early in the second half and looked primed to run away with the game, but Penn State slowly crawled back into it.
PSU’s Mashea Williams made 1 of 2 free throws with 5:30 to go, bringing her team within six at 63-57, but that was as close as the Lions would get.
Prahalis drew a foul and made a pair of free throws then Lavender added another from the charity stripe.
Julia Trogele had a field goal for the Lions, then Lavender countered with jumper set up by Prahalis.
Penn State’s Tyra Grant, locked in a head-to-head battle with Lavender for the league scoring title, made a pair of free throws, then Brittany Johnson got those points back for the Buckeyes by curling around a screen and hitting a jump shot from the foul line.
That gave the Buckeyes a 70-61 lead with 3:01 to play, then Lavender and Allen fittingly added one more basket apiece to help salt away the game.
Lavender’s layup at the 2:15 mark was significant because it gave her 360 points in 18 Big Ten games, one more than Grant would finish with.
Although Lavender began the day with a healthy lead in scoring for overall games, but she trailed Grant by 13 in league play.
Grant, a junior from Youngstown, had 14 on the day to tie Williams for team-high honors. Trogele added 10.
Also reaching double figures in scoring for Ohio State was Prahalis, who shook off a slow start to finish with 11 points and five assists. She also had five steals.
Asked if the fifth title felt any different than the others, Foster said, “A little.
“I think we’re a better team than we’ve been for a while – a couple of years,” he said. “That would certainly be one. A little more enthusiasm with it. And I like the way they took their time and respected their opponent and celebrated afterwards.”
Both teams return to action next weekend at the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.
The Buckeyes are the No. 1 seed and at 6 p.m. Friday will play the winner of a Thursday game between Penn State and Illinois.
Nearly lost in all the hoopla of another Big Ten title was another significant number: 800. The victory was Ohio State’s 800th as a program. The Buckeyes joined a list that already consisted of seven members: Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, Old Dominion, Stephen F. Austin, James Madison, Tennessee Tech and Texas.