Record-setting performance leads Prahalis, Buckeyes past Minnesota on Senior Night
After having played in 71 home games over the course of her college career, Samantha Prahalis saved her best for last.
Playing in front of a Columbus crowd for one last time, Ohio State’s senior guard celebrated her senior night by scoring a school record 42 points, leading the No. 8 Buckeyes (24-4, 11-4) to a 81-56 victory over Minnesota (14-15, 6-9) on Thursday night.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Prahalis’ record-setting performance bettered that of former OSU guard Katie Smith, who scored 40 points in 1994 against Idaho State.
“It was special tonight,” Prahalis said. “I just got into a pretty good rhythm, and then it was like one of those nights where you don’t see the defenders. You get hot and you keep on hitting.”
With fans in attendance holding sticks with pictures of OSU’s lone senior’s face on it, Prahalis got off to a fast start, scoring 15 of the Buckeyes’ first 17 points. The Commack, New York product never slowed down, scoring 22 first half points and leading the Buckeyes into intermission with a 38-26 lead.
Halftime didn’t bring many answers for the Gophers as Prahalis scored 13 points- including three 3-point makes- in the first seven minutes of the second half to help stretch the OSU lead out to 18 points. The 35 points in the opening 27 minutes of play moved Prahalis past her previous career-high of 34 points, but the OSU point guard had bigger milestones in sight.
Photo by Jim Davidson
After converting a lay-up and her career-high seventh 3-point shot to tie the OSU record with 40 points, Prahalis passed on two open shots before drawing a foul from Minnesota guard Cotton Leah, sending her to the foul line with 2:27 left in the game.
“That whole sequence was a great hustle sequence,” OSU coach Jim Foster. “Our energy, even that late in the game, was still where it needed to be.”
Prahalis converted both free throws, moving her past Smith- an OSU player development assistant- and into the school’s record book.
“She’s been great. Just helping me and just basically talking to me,” Prahalis said of Smith. “We have a pretty good relationship. She’s so successful. Gold medals, championships, MVPs. I just try to talk to her whenever I can because she has a lot of knowledge.”
OSU’s dominating performance- in which they held Minnesota to 26.7 percent shooting- was a far cry from their 76-65 loss to the Gophers on Jan. 29. Prahalis said that the Buckeyes’ first game against Minnesota, as well as their 84-66 loss at Penn State on Monday, played crucial roles in her mindset heading into Thursday night.
“I felt on Monday I could have been more active on the boards, I could have been more active on defense. It kind of bothered me. It really bothered me, actually,” Prahalis said. “I just wanted to make sure I was all over the place, I had myself up and ready to compete on both ends. Even if I didn’t score 42 tonight, I wanted to be a presence everywhere.”
The Big Ten Player of the Year front-runner certainly succeeded in her mission, although her coach seemed to be more impressed with one of the few statistics that Prahalis didn’t rack up on Thursday night.
“You haven’t even talked about zero turnovers,” Foster said. “I don’t know who wrote the script, but somebody did.”
With Nebraska losing at Michigan State, the Buckeyes’ win locks them into the No. 2-seed for next weekend’s Big Ten Tournament. OSU still has a shot at a share of its seventh regular season conference title in the past eight years, but that would require Penn State to lose to Minnesota and for the Buckeyes to beat the Cornhuskers in their regular season finale on Sunday.
“We’re not looking past Nebraska,” Prahalis said. “Further than that, we’ll take on what comes.”
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