Buckeyes' Season, Prahalis' Career Comes to an End with 70-65 Loss to Florida in NCAA Tournament
By Tony Gerdeman
They didn't shoot the ball very well, but the #9-seed Florida Gators (20-12) dominated the #8-seed Buckeyes (25-7) on the glass, outrebounding them 46-35, including a difference-making 20-6 advantage on the offensive boards in their 70-65 First Round NCAA Tournament win over Ohio State.
The Buckeyes were led by junior guard Tayler Hill, who scored a game-high 23 points. Fellow junior Amber Stokes chipped in a dozen points, showing her excellent ability to get to the basket almost at will.
Playing in her final collegiate game, Ohio State point guard Samantha Prahalis scored just nine points (all in the first half) and handed out three assists. She was harassed all day by Florida guard Lanita Bartley and just couldn't ever find her rhythm.
“I don't like to see Sammy go out the way that she went out," Buckeye coach Jim Foster said.
“I think she's the kind of player who needs a rhythm, but I don't think she ever got comfortable with it today."
Despite the struggles, Prahalis became just the second player in Division I history to record at least 2,000 career points and 900 assists.
The game started poorly for the Buckeyes, as they turned the ball over on their first three possessions and found themselves trailing 9-0 before they had even played two minutes of actual game time.
Ohio State then spent the rest of the half trying to get back into the game. Every time they would cut the lead to a couple of possessions, the Gators would respond with a couple of big baskets and the Buckeyes would have to go back to the drawing board.
After the Buckeyes went on a 10-3 run to cut Florida's lead to 17-14, the Gators answered with a 5-0 run to build their lead back up to eight points. That is how the entire game went for Ohio State.
Florida built a 30-17 lead with 7:21 to play, but again the Buckeyes fought back, getting the score back down to single digits with a 39-31 halftime deficit.
“I think we shot our field goal percentage and got quality shots, but we just had some very bad turnovers," Foster explained.
"Just unforced turnovers. A couple of passes just thrown over a player's head. I think defensively it took us a while to figure out how effective we could be. Offensively we just had some unforced, untimely turnovers. We shot ourselves in the foot a lot.”
Despite those miscues, Ohio State got the deficit down to 44-40 on a Stokes jumper, but Florida responded with a 4-0 run to rebuild their eight-point lead with 13:18 to play.
Hill's three-pointer with 9:19 remaining made it 52-48, but in under a minute the lead was back up to nine points.
Trailing by six points with less than two minutes remaining, consecutive layups by Hill made it 65-63 with 1:01 to play.
That was all the closer the Buckeyes would get, however, as the Gators closed strong with a quick layup and then an offensive rebound off of a missed free throw to seal the win.
"Bad turnovers," said Foster, explaining the difference in the game.
"I thought defensively we got them figured out. But I'll tell you, they had a couple of kids that stepped up and made big shots. We took a couple of kids out of the game that we wanted to take out of the game, but they just had some kids step up and make a big shot. We have a tendency around here not to give the other team credit, but they made some big shots. They really did."
Despite the loss, Ashley Adams put up some very impressive numbers, scoring 11 points, grabbing 14 rebounds, notching seven blocks and handing out a game-high four assists.
Foster concludes his tenth season at the helm for the Buckeyes, and finishes with his tenth 20-win season at Ohio State. Losing Prahalis will be hard to overcome next season, but it also wouldn't be the first time to see this team surprise some folks.
"This was a team that didn't have a lot of expectations in the preseason," he said. "They came on and created the weight of expectations. It bodes well for what the future holds."
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