Bowling Green's Tracy Pontius tries to drive to the basket on Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis. Pontius led the Falcons with 18 points. Prahalis had 16 points for the Buckeyes.
Terry Gilliam / AP Enlarge
COLUMBUS - Talk about undergoing a litmus test.
Bowling Green State University experienced one of the most significant early season challenges in the history of the program yesterday afternoon.
The Falcons faced No. 3 Ohio State in a Women's National Invitational Tournament second-round matchup at Value City Arena.
It didn't take long for the Falcons to realize they had their hands full.
BG trailed the entire game as Ohio State All-American candidates Jantel Lavender and Samantha Prahalis paced the Buckeyes to a 91-72 rout of the Falcons before a crowd of 2,975.
Lavender scored 18 of her game-high 23 points by halftime, and Prahalis, the Buckeyes' crafty point guard, produced 16 points to go along with a game-high eight assists. Tayler Hill and Sarah Schulze contributed to the Buckeyes' balanced attack by scoring 19 and 15 points, respectively, in a game the Falcons trailed by as many as 30 points.
"One of the reasons we were excited to be invited into the Preseason WNIT is the opportunity to play a fantastic program like Ohio
State," Falcons coach Curt Miller said. "We looked forward to this day to be able to play a program that truly has a chance to win the national championship this year.
"I thought we struggled in the first half adjusting to the physicality of the game, and it took us out of rhythm, and we obviously dug ourselves a hole."
Tracy Pontius led the Falcons with a team-high 18 points and three assists, while central Ohio native Lauren Prochaska added 11 points but made only 4 of 15 shots. Tamika Nurse, coming off a 21-point performance against Chicago State, also struggled with her shot, making only 2 of 11 attempts.
BG made 26 of 70 shot attempts (37 percent), while Ohio State sank 31 of 69 shots (45 percent).
Prochaska, the Falcons' top returning scorer from last season's 29-5 team, went 0-for-5 from the field in the first half as the Buckeyes kept someone close to her around the perimeter. It led to the all-MAC player putting the ball on the floor and trying to score near the basket, where the 6-foot-4 Lavender and 6-1 Schulze roamed.
"We just need to concentrate more when we get to the basket," Prochaska said. "We weren't tough enough, and we let them push us around."
Buckeyes coach Jim Foster made it clear what their defensive strategy was.
"They're a good shooting team. We wanted them to put the ball on the floor," he said.
The Falcons fell behind 9-2 early in the contest and never figured out how to overcome a 55-28 halftime deficit.
Lavender created matchup problems for the Falcons on both ends of the floor. BG's starting forwards, Tara Breske and Maggie Hennegan, picked up three fouls apiece by halftime.
"I think they initiated the extra physical game," Lavender said. "Of course, I like the physical game, but they came out playing physical."
After Hennegan was called for her third, BG's bench was hit with a technical with just over four minutes left in the first half and the Buckeyes in front 36-20.
After Maria Moeller made a pair of technical foul shots and Schulze added two free throws, BG trailed 40-20.
The Falcons never pulled any closer than 17 points the rest of the afternoon.
BG will face tonight's Marist-West Virginia loser in a WNIT consolation game at a site and date to be determined.
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