Minnesota Hands OSU Women First Big Ten Loss

Basketball coaches might not always agree on a lot of things during the course of a basketball game, but Ohio State's Jim Foster and Minnesota's Pam Borton had no trouble determining how the outcome of the Big Ten women's basketball game Thursday night was determined.

The visiting Golden Gophers outworked their hosts all night for a 59-56 upset in front of 2,650 fans at Value City Arena.

"I think that's our game plan every single day we step in the gym," Borton said. "We want to be the hardest-working team in the country. We've got to be able to outwork teams. We're not the most talented team in the Big Ten, but we're going to outwork teams and outhustle teams, and I think that says a lot more than maybe some talent."

A few minutes after she departed, Foster had his turn.

"Without a doubt they outworked us tonight," said.

And so, the Golden Gophers (12-5, 4-2) won in Columbus for the first time ever, breaking a 23-game hex that began in 1983.

After a tight opening 10 minutes, Minnesota scored seven in a row to get some breathing room, and the Gophers led 26-20 after a dismal first half for the home team.

The 15th-ranked Buckeyes (14-3, 5-1) played without their best defensive stopper, guard Shavelle Little, but the problem in the opening 20 minutes was offense.

They shot just 7 for 24 and committed 10 turnovers.

The Gophers turned those miscues into 12 points, and they also devoured their own misses with some regularity.

Minnesota had six offensive rebounds and made nearly all of them count as they turned them into 11 points. With the aid of some easy looks on those second shots, the Gophers shot 40 percent in the first half, making 11 of 27.

Minnesota's Katie Ohm seemed to be about the only player on either team who could find the range from outside the painted area as she made a trio of three-pointers in the first half.

Jantel Lavender led the way for the Buckeyes in the first half. She scored eight points on 3-for-4 shooting, but as her dearth of shots indicates, Lavender was hard for her teammates to find with the ball.

Minnesota maintained its halftime lead for the first part of the second stanza then saw the Buckeyes score eight in a row to tie the game at 37 on a pair of free throws by Lavender at the 12:24 mark.

That was only to see the visitors rattle off five in a row as part of a 9-2 spurt that staked them to a 46-39 lead with 8:37 to go in the game.

Though they got even again later in the half, the Buckeyes never were able to get over the hump they created in the opening stanza despite having chances.

Samantha Prahalis made two free throws to tie the game at 56 with 35 seconds to go, but without the tenacious defense of Little to contend with, the Gophers calmly ran a halfcourt set for Ashley Ellis-Milan on the low block. She did not score, but she drew a shooting foul from Star Allen with 17 seconds showing on the clock.

She calmly made both free throws to put her team ahead for good.

Ohio State had time to tie again, but Prahalis' attempt to get the ball to Lavender in the high post soared just over the fingertips of the 6-4 center and went out of bounds to the Gophers.

Ohio State fouled Ellis-Milan in the backcourt after the ensuing inbound pass, and she made one free throw but missed the second.

After a defensive rebound and a timeout, Ohio State threw the ball to Lavender at midcourt, but surrounded by a pair of defenders, she could do nothing with it. There was contact created by both partie,s but no whistle and the game ended, a fitting conclusion to a typically physical Big Ten contest.

Ellis-Milan led the winners with 17 points and Ohm had 15 as she made 5 of 7 three-pointers.

Lavender had 20 points and seven rebounds for Ohio State, but the Gopher defense made her work extra hard for everything she got. She took only 6 shots, making 5. The rest of her points she made by hitting 10 of 11 free throws after drawing fouls in the post.

Prahalis 16 points and four assists while Brittany Johnson had 11.

Ohio State outscored the visitors 20-4 at the foul line, an advantage that could not overcome deficits in the paint (26-18) and especially on second-chance points.

Minnesota grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and outscored the Buckeyes by a staggering 15-0 count in second-chance points. Ohio State had three offensive boards.

"I just think that we let them outwork us, basically," Lavender said. "We didn't rebound well tonight and that was a key part to this game."

Overall, the Gophers had a rebounding advantage of 34-21.

"I think they outworked us on the glass," Foster said. "You can't think of anything else when you look at the numbers."

The victory put the visitors solidly in the race for the Big Ten title. They pulled within one game of the Buckeyes, who entered the night 5-0 in conference play. Elsewhere in the Big Ten on Thursday night, Purdue beat visiting Penn State 59-48 to improve to 5-1 in league play, and Indiana edged Wisconsin 64-61 to create a three-way tie atop the standings. Minnesota sat third with 4-2 Michigan State, a 41-37 winner at Michigan.

After the game, Foster would not specifically identify Little's injury. He said only that she fell on the ice while putting gas in her car Wednesday. The coach said he had no idea when she might return.

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