INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jantel Lavender controlled the middle and Samantha Prahalis took care of the perimeter work, leading No. 10 Ohio State past Illinois 66-55 in Friday's Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.
Lavender, the Big Ten player of the year, finished with 19 points and six rebounds. Prahalis had 13 points and eight assists. The Buckeyes (28-4) are the defending tourney champs and will face either Purdue or Wisconsin in Saturday's semifinals.
Illinois (16-14) was led by Jenna Smith, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds. She fell three points short of breaking Illinois' career scoring record but did set a new single-season record for rebounds. Smith now has 2,087 career points, trailing Ashley Berggren by two.
Lacey Simpson had 13 points and seven rebounds for the Illini, who had won three straight before Friday.
It was an unusually tough struggle for Ohio State, which is seeded No. 1 in Indianapolis for a record sixth straight year and had swept the season series from Illinois by a combined total of 38 points.
The long, athletic Illini refused to let the Buckeyes run away from them again.
They limited the prolific shooting Buckeyes to 40 percent from the field and outrebounded Ohio State 45-34.
However, the Buckeyes' 1-2 combination proved too much.
With Lavender repeatedly forcing Smith to catch the ball away from the basket, and Prahalis holding Simpson in check, the Illini's top two scoring threats were shut down.
Ohio State, meanwhile, took control with a 17-4 run that gave them a 17-7 lead with 11:29 to go in the first half.
Twice during the half, Ohio State appeared poised to pull away, only to watch the Illini continue to hang around.
Illinois trimmed a 22-12 deficit to 24-19. Ohio State answered with seven straight points to make it 31-19 with 3:10 to go in the half.
But again Illinois rallied.
After trailing 33-24 at the half, the Illini opened the second half with five straight points.
The Buckeyes followed that with an 11-4 run, rebuilding a 44-33 lead that they finally expanded to 55-39 with 8:46 to go.
Game over, right?
The Illini went on a 14-2 over 3½ minutes to close to 57-51 when freshman Karisma Penn hit a 3-footer with 5:04 left, but the Buckeyes closed it out with free throws in the final minute.