Jan. 22, 2012
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- With the game teetering on the brink, the Big Ten's dynamic duo took over for Ohio State.
Tayler Hill hit the go-ahead 3-pointer and Samantha Prahalis scored eight straight Buckeyes points in the waning moments to lead 10th-ranked Ohio State past pesky Illinois 96-84 on Sunday.
"Big-time players made big-time shots," Illini coach Jolette Law said. "Down the stretch, Sammy put this team on her back and she made some big plays."
Prahalis finished with 28 points, Hill added 26 and Amber Stokes 16 for the Buckeyes (19-1, 6-1 Big Ten), who have won four in a row since their lone loss.
Time and again, their big two have taken over a game that could easily have gone the other way.
"I feel like when it gets a little close, our leadership does come up," said Prahalis, the Buckeyes' only senior. "It's almost like an unsaid thing."
Hill hit a 3 from the right wing with 4:57 left to end an 8-0 Illinois run. Ashley Adams' kickout pass to Hill led to the Buckeyes taking the lead for good.
Prahalis then took over, hitting a 3 and then, after an Illinois free throw, making another 3 from up top and adding a jumper from the perimeter to push the lead to 87-77.
Stokes helped preserve the win with five free throws, including four in the final minute.
Prahalis has been on Ohio State teams that have won two Big Ten titles and played in three NCAA tournaments. Hill was an integral part a year ago to a team that regrouped from a rough patch in the middle of the season to survive until the NCAA regional semifinals loss to Tennessee.
"This year it's like it's different because there's a calm," Prahalis said of the veterans' cool play under fire. "It's not like we're pressing. It's just like, `All right, let's just calm down and be us."
As evidence, the Buckeyes hit 70 percent of their shots from the field in the second half (16 of 23). Prahalis had five rebounds and six assists while matching her season high in points.
Hill, the Big Ten's leading scorer at more than 21 points a game, hit 8 of 14 shots from the field, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range, and made 7 of 8 free throws.
"It comes with us being veteran guards and bringing that experience," said Hill, a junior.
Ohio State coach Jim Foster said Prahalis and Hill are comfortable late in games.
"They're good with the ball in their hands," he said. "There's more room to operate and more complementary attributes for their skills with all five players on the floor. This team, our attributes, fit together nicely."
Karisma Penn had 23 points, Adrienne GodBold 18, Amber Moore 13 and Ivory Crawford 12 for the Illini (6-14, 0-7), who added to their list of close losses in conference play.
Four of their six losses in the Big Ten have come on the final possession or in overtime, not counting the close call on Sunday. They shot 53 percent from the field but were undone by 21 turnovers -- and Ohio State's big two making plays with the game hanging in the balance.
Illinois starter Kersten Magrum, averaging 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds, missed her third game in a row with symptoms from a concussion she suffered in a game against Wisconsin.
With Ohio State holding a 76-68 lead, the Illini ran off the next eight points on two field goals by Crawford, one by GodBold and two foul shots by Lydia McCully.
But from there, the Buckeyes took over by scoring nine of the next 10 points.
"We could easily be 5-2 (in the Big Ten)," Penn said. "We're in all the games. It just gets away from us at the end."
Since their only loss of the season, a 73-62 setback at Michigan on Jan. 7, the Buckeyes have beaten Northwestern 82-72, Michigan State 64-56 and No. 20 Nebraska 82-68 on Thursday night.
The Buckeyes have won 30 of their last 32, the only losses coming at rival Michigan and in last spring's NCAA regional semifinal against Tennessee.
They improved to 155-13 at home in Foster's 10 seasons -- but it wasn't easy.
"I don't think it should have got to that point, but it was, like, `OK," Prahalis said. "We just wrote up a play, Tay hit a 3 and then we had an out-of-bounds play and coach Foster drew up a play and I hit a 3 and we just kind of kept rolling."
- The crowd of 6,687 was the largest women’s basketball crowd at Value City Arena since 11,827 attended the game vs. Michigan State Feb. 21, 2010.
- For the third consecutive game, four Buckeyes scored in double digits. Against the Illini, Samantha Prahalis led all scorers with 28 points, Tayler Hill had 26, while Amber Stokes put up 16 points. Darryce Moore added 10.
- After tying her career best in points with 12 vs. Nebraska Thursday, Amber Stokes recorded a new career high with 16 points. Stokes also grabbed six rebounds, one short of her career high.
- Prahalis, Hill and Stokes combined for 70 points vs. Illinois.
- The 96 points were the most by the Buckeyes since scoring 99 against Western Illinois on Dec. 22, 2009.
- The 96 points also are the most points Ohio State has scored against Illinois. The previous best was 94 points scored March 13, 1993.
- After Illinois tied the score at 76, Ohio State went on a 20-8 run in the final 5:12.
- The Buckeyes have scored 80 or more points in eight of their last 13 games and entered the game today leading the Big Ten with a +17.8 average scoring margin.
- Ohio State has shot 50 percent or better in three of its last four games.
- Ohio State has hit at least one 3-pointer in 107 consecutive games.
- Since the start of 2004-05, the Buckeyes are 55-5 in Big Ten games at Value City Arena.
- Since the start of the 2004-05 season, Ohio State has amassed a 128-9 record at home and a 113-8 record at Value City Arena. The Buckeyes are 155-13 at home overall all-time under Jim Foster.
Jim Foster, Ohio State head coach
On the challenge from Illinois
“They’re as athletic as anybody in the conference. We had to force the tempo to create turnovers and we did a good job of that today.”
On multiple players getting the ball down the stretch
“They’re all good with the ball in their hands. We have kids who can shoot, pass and create off the dribble. This team has a lot more attributes that fit together as a team than last year.”
On the consistency from Tayler Hill and Samantha Prahalis
“They do a good job of making sure everybody is involved. I like when we get quality shots, whether it would be free throws or layups. They are very high productive shots. What I dislike is no ball movement and constant jump shots. That’s when I start speaking French.”
Samantha Prahalis, senior guard
On upperclassmen leadership
“When it gets close I think our leadership does come up. It’s almost like an unsaid thing. We just have to get a good shot, get in our spot or hit someone who is open.”
On the momentum change in the second half
“I don’t think it should have got to that point. We knew we just had to write up a play and hit a three, like Coach Foster told us. We just had to keep it rolling.”
On the importance of defense
“It’s just scoring and making stops. When [the game] gets down like that, we need a score and it could be any three of us [Prahalis, Tayler Hill and Amber Stokes], but it’s really important we don’t exchange baskets with them. It’s ok we get the shot, but we have to make stops too.”
Tayler Hill, junior guard
“I think everyone knows if they come and play us, they’re going to have to give their best. They came out and played hard. They prepared well. I know they came out and did the best they can.”
Amber Stokes, junior guard
On her role during the game
“Tayler [Hill] and Sam [Prahalis] were both hitting key shots. As far as me playing a role, I just had to get them open so they could hit those key shots.”
“They have some good shooters. Number 42 [Amber Moore] was hitting some three’s. Karisma Penn was hitting shots in the low keys. They came to play.”
Illinois Head Coach Jolette Law
On Ohio State’s play
“I give a lot of credit to Ohio State, specifically Sammy Prahalis and Tayler Hill. They are big time players and they made big time shots down the stretch. Sammy put this team on her back down the stretch and made some big time shots.”
On Illinois’ game
“I think my kids played composed, they didn’t give up and they didn’t get rattled. I think we played pretty good down the stretch. We’re getting better daily. I’m trying my best not to look at the record. I think I just need to push them and get a little bit better.”
On how Illinois changed Ohio State’s game
“I think we started attacking a little more. We’re getting a lot of play out of our guards. I think we played together as a unit down the stretch. We had some communication difficulties on defense and they executed.
On Ohio State’s difference makers
“Down the stretch, the ball was in Sammy’s hands. She has NCAA experience and she’s a senior and Tayler Hill is playing the best play I’ve seen in a while. They had the ball in their hands and were making shots.”
Karisma Penn, Illinois junior forward
On the team’s mentality
“We’re still positive. Like you said, we could easily be five and two. We have to keep working hard. We’re in all these games, but we just have to buckle down the last few minutes.”
On Illinois’ playing style
“Every time we play the Big Ten we play them close, so I’m guessing they were expecting that. I just think we had a variety of different people scoring. I wish we could have played better on the defensive end down the stretch. We just need to buckle down in the end on defense.”