PITTSBURGH (AP) — Neither sickness nor St. Francis were about to slow Ohio State.
Jantel Lavender dominated inside for Ohio State with 23 points and 16 rebounds against smaller St. Francis and the second-seeded Buckeyes opened up a 27-point lead before halftime during a 93-59 rout in a first-round NCAA Dayton Regional game on Sunday.
Lavender, the three-time Big Ten player of the year, starting guard Tayler Hill and two reserves became ill after eating sandwiches following practice Saturday, but the Buckeyes (31-4) certainly look to be recovered by game time.
They reeled off runs of 11-0, 19-2 and 13-3 before halftime, taking control from the start and never allowing the Red Flash (17-15) to build any confidence or momentum.
The Red Flash had no one who could defend the 6-foot-4 Lavender's post-up moves, Johnson's outside shooting or point guard Samantha Prahalis' playmaking, as quickly became evident. Johnson ended with 18 points, going 4 of 8 from 3-point range, while Prahalis had 14 points, 13 assists and six rebounds.
It didn't take long.
Johnson hit a pair of 3-pointers and Sarah Schulze made another as the Buckeyes opened a 11-0 lead with only 2:11 gone — and it didn't get much better for the Flash. The Buckeyes led 32-9 at the midpoint of the first half, and they didn't let up even when their reserves began coming off the bench.
Shavelle Little, a two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year, made all six of her shots while scoring 14 points and getting five steals, displaying the kind of depth the Buckeyes will need if they meet defending national champion Connecticut in the regional final next weekend.
Maybe it was Buckeyes coach Jim Foster's warning that the Red Flash resembled Iowa that made his players determined to never let St. Francis into the game. Ohio State scrambled from 16 points down to beat Iowa 66-64 in the Big Ten tournament, but no comeback was needed this time.
Ohio State, No. 8 in the final AP poll, won for the ninth time in 10 games by shooting 49.3 percent (37 of 75) to the Red Flash's 28.6 percent (20 of 70) and outrebounded them 55-38. St. Francis was 7 of 30 from 3-point range.
Britney Hodges and Brittany Lilley scored 16 points and Samantha Leach had 14 for St. Francis, which is 0-10 in NCAA play, losing each time by at least 15 points.
This was the Red Flash's first appearance under coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl, a former Penn State star who got her team into the NCAA tournament despite being only fifth-seeded in the Northeast Conference tournament.
The Red Flash took some hope into the game that a near upset of Pitt at the Petersen Events Center earlier this season might show that they could play at this level, but the talented Buckeyes never gave them a chance.
With Pitt missing from the tournament field following a disappointing 16-15 season, only several thousand fans showed up at the 12,508-seat Petersen Events Center. Pitt bid for the event with the expectation it would reach the tournament.