Prahalis leads No. 3 Ohio State past West Virginia
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—No. 3 Ohio State dominated the first 4 minutes and West Virginia never came close to recovering over the last 36.
Samantha Prahalis had 14 points and 12 assists, and the Buckeyes scored the first 17 points to roll past the Mountaineers 92-69 Thursday night in the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT.
“I told the team that’s why they’re No. 3 in the country and we’re not ranked,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “We have to learn how to play that hard and that aggressive. We came out standing around and they came out attacking; we came out being attacked.”
The Buckeyes (3-0) will host Oklahoma State on Sunday in the Preseason WNIT championship game, also at their own Value City Arena.
Prahalis, the diminutive but lightning-fast sophomore point guard, also had five rebounds and a steal.
“We definitely were clicking,” she said about the Buckeyes’ play in transition. “We knew that we couldn’t really pound it inside, so us running would help open that up.”
Preseason All-American Jantel Lavender led Ohio State with 19 points, and freshman Tayler Hill added 14. Brittany Johnson had 13, Shavelle Little 11 and Maria Moeller 10 for the balanced Buckeyes, who shot 60 percent from the field.
Asked if Ohio State had more weapons than last season’s 29-6 team that made it to the NCAA regional semifinals, Lavender said, “It’s a ton more. If you sub somebody out, somebody else is coming in to bring something different, defensively and offensively. … It’s a lot of different looks. I just like playing with such a deep team. It’s like versatility from every position and every player.”
Johnson hit two 3-pointers, Hill had five points and Prahalis four in the 17-0 burst during the first 4 minutes. The Mountaineers (2-1), who got 23 points from Liz Repella, pulled to 27-19 with under 7 minutes left in the half. But the Buckeyes went on an 11-0 run.
Down 44-24 at halftime, the Mountaineers drew to 67-52 midway through the half but Prahalis drove the baseline, hit a layup and was fouled, and completed the three-point play. Moments later, she assisted when Maria Moeller tossed in a 3-pointer to make it 73-52, effectively ending any West Virginia hopes.
“That’s what basketball is today. It’s nothing else. It’s media timeouts every 4 minutes,” Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. “You might be playing great basketball, and then you’ve got to go sit down for a couple of minutes. Then you have to get up and start all over again. It’s a series of mini-games. That’s what it’s evolved into. Runs, there’s going to be runs. They made one and we countered and got it back. That’s what you look for.”
Vanessa House added 12 points and Sarah Miles 10 for the Mountaineers, who shot 38 percent from the field.
Little and fellow senior Cherise Daniel were playing for the first time after sitting out the first two games after an undisclosed secondary violation of NCAA rules.
“I really was just thinking about getting back today,” said Little, the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year the last two seasons. “I know my role on this team. I know I can bring energy and pick us up a little bit.”
Little made all five shots from the field and her only foul shot and also had two steals and a blocked shot.
West Virginia plays out of the Big East, home to top-ranked Connecticut and several other top teams. Carey said playing the Buckeyes will help down the road.
“That’s a very good basketball team,” he said. “I’d hate to play against people better than them in the Top 5. And we’re going to play a couple in our league.”
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