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Published: Monday, 2/26/2007

Buckeyes clinch Big Ten

ASSOCIATED PRESS
OSU's Jessica Davenport, who had 25 points, catches the ball against UM's Carly Benson. OSU's Jessica Davenport, who had 25 points, catches the ball against UM's Carly Benson.
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ANN ARBOR - When a scrambling Michigan defense put a kink in Ohio State's offensive rhythm, the Buckeyes found a dependable solution: Jessica Davenport.

The 6-foot-5 senior center scored 25 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in No. 5 Ohio State's 72-58 victory yesterday over the Wolverines.

With the win, the Buckeyes clinched their second straight outright and third straight overall Big Ten women's basketball championship and the top seed in this weekend's conference tournament in Indianapolis.

"We won it last year, so we have to go in there and play hard. We know everybody will be gunning for us," Davenport said. "We have to keep our composure and try to get three straight wins."

Ohio State (26-2, 15-1 Big Ten) set the tone early, using a 17-0 scoring run over the first 8:09 to build a double-digit lead. During that stretch, Michigan (10-19, 3-13) missed 12 straight shots, scoring only on Carly Benson's two free throws.

The Wolverines' first field goal came when Krista Phillips broke the offensive drought with

11:10 remaining in the first half. Michigan shot 22.2 percent from the field before halftime.

"We weren't playing with fear - a lot of our shots just weren't falling," said Michigan freshman LeQuisha Whitfield, who came off the bench to score 13 points to go along with Benson's team-high 16.

Ohio State led 38-22 at halftime and extended its advantage to as many as 21. Michigan's Whitfield cut the deficit to 43-35 about 6 1/2 minutes into the second half before Davenport's powerful post game helped the Buckeyes pull away.

When Michigan began to gain ground, thanks in part to 18 Ohio State turnovers, the Buckeyes routinely found Davenport, who hit 7-of-12 shots from the field and made 11-of-13 free throw attempts.

Marscilla Packer added 17 points for OSU, which handed Michigan its 25th straight loss to a ranked opponent.

With its offense fueled by Davenport and Packer, Ohio State's defense held Michigan to 33.3 percent shooting while forcing 16 turnovers.

"People like to talk about us in terms of our offense, but I think we're a pretty good defensive team," Buckeyes coach Jim Foster said.



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