Women’s Big Ten Tournament run ends in finals


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INDIANAPOLIS — The Iowa women’s basketball team was just one bucket shy of adding a Big Ten Tournament championship chapter to its Cinderella storybook.

No. 10 Ohio State (30-4) defeated the Hawkeyes (19-13), 66-64, in Sunday’s championship game at Conseco Field House. The tournament title is Ohio State’s second straight and third overall.

Jantel Lavender, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player for the second-straight year, was the one to slam the clock to midnight on Iowa.

Iowa freshman Trisha Nesbitt was whistled for a shooting foul while providing defensive help on Lavender with 1.9 seconds remaining and the score knotted at 64-64. The Buckeye junior posted the final two of her 35 points on the two subsequent free throws — the most total points ever scored in a Big Ten Tournament championship game. Her two freebies gave Ohio State a 66-64 lead.

During the game’s final play, sophomore Kamille Wahlin said she had a pretty good look at the basket. The Hawkeye point guard said fellow sophomore Kelly Krei’s long inbound pass put the ball in perfect position.

The Crookston, Minn., native’s shot was released before the game’s final buzzer, but the ball skimmed off the right side of the rim. Wahlin said the shot felt good off of her hands but knew the shot was off to the right when she saw it in the air.

“I turned around, I was probably pretty far out on that [shot],” said Wahlin, who was selected as a member of the all-tournament team after leading Iowa with 20 points. “[It] didn’t work to my advantage. But I just tried to get a good look and let it go in. Unfortunately, it didn’t go in.”

The legitimacy of the final foul call was a hot point of discussion at the press conference following the game.

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said she obviously wished the official wouldn’t have blown the whistle on the Lavender play. The 10th-year head coach thought an extra five minutes of basketball would have been great. But she also said that her team, along with everyone else in the building, knew the ball would wind up in Lavender’s hands.

Lavender, who was named the Big Ten Player of the Year for a second-consecutive season, was 14-of-25 from the field and a perfect 7-of-7 from the charity stripe. Her 35 points broke the record set by former Purdue player Stephanie White-McCarty in 1999 of 31 points in the Big Ten title game.

“When the game’s on the line, she’s going to perform for you,” Bluder said. “And that’s what makes her so special. She’s so strong. She’s so talented.”

Krei and junior Kachine Alexander also earned spots on the all-tournament team, joining Wahlin. Krei scored 18 points on Sunday to finish with 42 total points in three tournament games, while Alexander’s 13 brought her weekend total to 44 points.

The loss drops Iowa to 2-1 in tournament championship games. The Hawkeyes are expected to receive an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament, but they will await the March 15 tournament selection show to learn their fate.

“From what I hear from other people, you know, we do have a good chance of getting in [the tournament],” Wahlin said. “So hopefully, we proved ourselves in the [Big Ten] Tournament that we are capable of playing in the NCAA Tournament.”

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