Prahalis, OSU Bounce Back Against Gophers

Three days after squandering a huge early lead en route to their first conference loss of the season, the Ohio State women's basketball team showed visiting Minnesota no mercy during a 81-58 victory at Value City Arena in Columbus.

This time, the Buckeyes (21-2, 9-1) were sharp for more than the opening two minutes.

Both teams weathered early storms, then Ohio State blew away the Golden Gophers.

The Buckeyes scored the first 10 points of the contest as Jantel Lavender hit a layup on the game's opening possession. Brittany Johnson added a three-pointer the next time down then Samantha Prahalis had a pull-up jumper before Johnson hit another trey.

That prompted Minnesota head coach Pam Borton to call timeout with 17:52 to go. She drew up an offensive set that got a good look for Jackie Voigt, who made a jumper from the foul line to get the Golden Gophers (11-9, 4-5) on the board.

The visitors outscored the Buckeyes 13-7 over the next 31/2 minutes to get back within four at 17-13 with 13:52 left, but from that point on Ohio State dominated.

Prahalis made a jumper from just inside the three-point line to start a 14-2 Ohio State run that saw the lead bulge to 31-15.

Minnesota managed to put a finger in the dam long enough to score six in a row, then the Buckeyes went back at it.

Sarah Schulze hit a three-pointer from the left wing, Lavender scored a layup then Prahalis stopped and popped a trey in transition.

Voigt maneuvered in the lane to get room for a bank shot for the Golden Gophers, then Ohio State poured in 12 more in a row.

Guard Kiara Buford ended that run with a three for Minnesota, then Prahalis hit two free throws and a layup for the final four points of the half.

When the dust had settled after 20 minutes, the Buckeyes led 55-26, having outscored their guests 25-6 in the last 6:14 of the half.

They created easy shots both by operating the half-court offense more fluidly and by pushing the ball up the floor at every opportunity.

Ohio State outscored the Gophers 15-4 on the fast break and made 9 of 14 three-pointers, some of those coming in transition.

"We want to run on makes, and sometimes we don't," Ohio State head coach Jim Foster said. "Today we did, and when we run on makes and misses it just accents our strengths.

Prahalis, Ohio State's sophomore point guard, was in the middle of most of the Buckeyes' success and turned in a nearly perfect performance, posting 19 points and nine assists in the opening half. She made 7 of 9 field goals, including all three of her three-point attempts.

She finished the night with 23 points and 10 assists without a turnover, her first turnover-free performance as a Buckeye.

"Her decision making today was terrific. It was terrific - nothing forced," Foster said. "I just think when the ball moves we're hard to guard. She sure made sure that happened tonight."

Though still seeming to feel the effects of missing a potential game-tying layup in a 63-61 loss at Purdue on Monday, Prahalis said she was happy to get back on the court.

"I just wanted to get back out and play better than what I did on Monday," she said. "I wouldn't have my assists or anything without my teammates finishing. I just think like Jantel said, we played as a team. We need to play as a team if we want to continue to have success."

Since she would not toot her own horn, Lavender took to the task.

?"I think it's amazing," the junior center said. "She played a great game tonight. She took her time and delivered the ball. She played defense, and I think we need that in the point guard position. She was just a great leader today."

Battling double teams from a physical Gopher defense, Lavender had 20 points and 11 rebounds. She also blocked two shots.

The Golden Gophers had a terrible time handling the ball, and the Buckeyes made them pay dearly. Ohio State totaled 10 steals and forced 19 turnovers in total, outscoring Minnesota 25-6 off of them.

"I thought that was an absolute embarrassing display of basketball by our team tonight," Borton said. "I don't think anybody showed up to play. I'm not sure who they were expecting we were playing tonight but it was an embarrassing display of Minnesota basketball."

Ohio State's performance came in stark contrast to the disheartening loss at Purdue when the Buckeyes scored the first 16 points then looked out of sync for most of the last 38 minutes.

"I thought we had a lot more ball reversals, a lot more ball movement (against Minnesota)," Foster said. "As a result, we obviously shot great from the three-point line. We got a lot of shots up, didn't turn the ball over, had a lot of defensive energy - a lot of good things."

Lavender moved into fifth place on Ohio State's all-time scoring list with 1,760 points, passing Nikita Lowry (1,746), Lisa Cline (1,750) and Kim Jordan (1,753).

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