Second half surge sends Buckeyes past Boilermakers, into tie for conference lead
Trailing by six points at halftime to the leaders of the Big Ten, No. 10 Ohio State women’s basketball coach Jim Foster told his star point guard that she was spending too much time moving horizontally and needed to focus on moving vertically. Samantha Prahalis listened, and her change of direction helped move the Buckeyes past No. 19 Purdue (19-6, 9-3) and into a tie for first place in the Big Ten.
After 36 minutes that were as back-and-forth as you’d expect from a battle between the Big Ten’s top two teams, it was Prahalis’ steal and subsequent lay-up broke a 65-all tie with four minutes remaining and proved to be the game-winning shot in the Buckeyes’ 80-71 win over Purdue on Sunday.
OSU’s lone senior came up huge in the second half where she scored 21 of her 26 points and made several big plays that proved the be the difference for the Buckeyes. Prahalis attributed her post-halftime success to her halftime chat with Foster.
“I was playing with them a little bit too much, east-west. They’re long so coach just told me to use my skill set, back it up, and attack forward,” Prahalis said. “When I went north and south, it worked.”
Prahalis’ change of direction helped the Buckeyes towards 16 second half points in the paint and allowed OSU to keep the Boilermakers within striking range until her game-winning play.
“Little plays like that might not win you the game, but it puts you on top,” Prahalis said. “We try to get those: loose balls, stuff like that, because those are the little things that win you big games.”
The New York-product’s lay-up may have given OSU the final lead of the game, but perhaps no play was bigger than when with 41 seconds, a wide-open Prahalis drained a 3-point shot to stretch the Buckeyes’ advantage from two to five and all but seal the OSU victory.
“My girl doubled Tayler [Hill] so I wouldn’t get the pass to Tayler,” Prahalis said. “Ashley [Adams] posted up pretty strong, I saw that she was open so I passed to her and she made a great pass back.”
Purdue coach Sharon Vesyp said that Prahalis was left open due to a break down in the Boilermakers’ communication.
“We never double-team,” Vesyp said. “That was the key when it comes down to it. You’ve got to stay on the basketball.”
That 3-point shot played an integral part in what was ultimately an 17-6 OSU run to close the game that began with a lay-up from Hill just seconds before the Prahalis steal.
The junior guard from Minnesota had an off-night, scoring a season-low 12 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, junior guard Amber Stokes had one of her best showings of the season, scoring 14 points on an efficient 6-of-10 shooting.
“Amber’s so important to this team that when she’s getting off, when she’s driving to the basket looking for other people and then of course playing defense, she’s a great asset for us,” Prahalis said. “Tayler, Amber, everyone’s so important. I’m really proud of Amber.
Although the Buckeyes did bounce back figuratively with their win over the Boilermakers, literal rebounds were tougher to find. OSU was out-boarded 41-24 on Sunday, yet still managed to walk away with a win that moves them into a four-way tie for the Big Ten lead with Purdue, Penn State, and Nebraska.
“Every game we play for the rest of the season is a must-win,” Foster said. “We have to take responsibility for us. Not worry about who’s playing who tonight. You take care of your business. We take care of our business, we win.”
The Buckeyes return to action on Thursday, when they’ll host Indiana (5-20, 0-12) but before Prahalis could turn her attention towards the Hoosiers, she still had work to do, signing autographs for fans after the game.
“See you in about three hours, Sammy,” Foster said as his star point guard left the postgame press conference.
Considering the show she just put on and the season-high 8,422 fans in attendance, he might not have been kidding.
Season Stats Year to Date