Lady Bulldogs fall

Published 6:42 am Tuesday, March 24, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — It was defense that got Ohio State into the regional semifinals. Jantel Lavender had 20 points and Ohio State shut out Mississippi State over the final 6:43 and scored its final 10 points on free throws to win 64-58 Monday night in an NCAA second-round game.

“At this time of year, defense is what’s going to win games, with this much intensity and this much on the line,” Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. “The shots some days are going to be there, some days not. But your defense can be there at all times.”

The Buckeyes (29-5) advance to the Berkeley regional. It will be a sweet trip for a team belittled after being knocked out in the first round against a worse-seeded opponent each of the past two years.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We are excited and ecstatic because we got past these first two rounds,” Lavender said. “We played extremely hard tonight. It’s a feeling of not satisfaction but excitement, to get past these first two rounds and now focus on the next two games.”

Star Allen added 12 points and 10 rebounds, saving her best for last. She rebounded a missed free throw with 15 seconds left and then added two clinching free throws for Ohio State, which has won 10 in a row and 15 of 17.

“Coach keeps telling me he needs my energy,” Allen said. “I just thought I had an extra fire in my belly.”

Tysheka Grimes scored 20 of her 22 points in the opening half for Mississippi State (23-10), which was seeking the school’s first trip out of the second round. Alexis Rack added 19 points for the Lady Bulldogs, who led 58-54 after Rack’s three-point play with 6:43 left.

But the Buckeyes ran off the game’s final 10 points.

“(It was) the little things down the stretch,” Mississippi State coach Sharon Fanning said. “Unforced turnovers, and a couple of block-outs, and that changed a four-point lead into where we didn’t score the rest of the game.”