Abby Sweet / Lantern photographer
Fans at Thursday night’s Ohio State women’s basketball game expecting to see senior guard Samantha Prahalis break the all-time Big Ten assist record weren’t in luck.
Prahalis gave the 5,344 fans that came to see her final game at the Schottenstein Center something else — a farewell performance to remember against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Prahalis set the OSU single-game scoring record with 42 points and led the Buckeyes (24-4, 11-4 Big Ten) to an 81-56 win against Minnesota (14-15, 6-9 Big Ten).
“I just got into a pretty good rhythm and it was almost like one of those nights when you don’t see the defenders,” Prahalis said after the game. “You just get hot.”
Before going into the game, Prahalis was just 11 assists shy of overtaking Northwestern’s Nancy Kennelly as the all-time Big Ten assists leader. The 20-year-old assists record did not fall in the game as Prahalis collected four assists Thursday.
Rather than shatter the assists record, Prahalis accomplished a feat that left her coach amazed.
“I don’t know who wrote the script, but somebody did,” OSU coach Jim Foster said.
Prahalis broke the previous single-game scoring mark of 40 set by Katie Smith on Dec. 11, 1994. Along with becoming the single game-scoring leader, she also overtook Tracey Hall to become fourth on the OSU all-time scoring list. Hall totaled 1,912 points from 1985-88, before Prahalis moved past her with 1,949.
The senior from Commack, N.Y., adds Thursday’s effort to a long list of accomplishments.
With her fiery and aggressive play, Prahalis has become the all-time assist leader at OSU, fourth in scoring and has helped her team win three Big Ten tournament championships. A possible fourth could come this year as the 2012 Big Ten Tournament is set to begin March 1.
Prahalis’ fiery demeanor has fueled her critics, but now, after four years as a Buckeye, Prahalis said she is looking beyond that.
“I’m used to it,” said Prahalis. “It happened in high school too. I’m just appreciative of the people who I have in my corner and the fans here.”
The people in her corner include Foster, who has defended Prahalis against those critics.
“There are a lot of silly people in this world,” said Foster. “To formulate an opinion about a kid who you don’t even know, and to have a strong opinion and voice it, that’s more of a reflection on those people than it is on Sammy Prahalis.”
Even though it hasn’t always been smooth, Foster helped mentor Prahalis since she came to OSU.
“It’s not always supposed to be easy,” Prahalis said. “He’s been like family to me and he’s been honest; that’s why I’ve been able to grow.”
Even before she scored her first bucket of the night, fans at the Schottenstein Center showed their support for the lone senior by wearing and waving paper-plate sized cut outs with Prahalis’ face on it.
The support continued until she sank two free throws to give her 42 points with less than three minutes remaining in Thursday’s game. She then then took a seat on the bench to a standing ovation from the arena.
She doesn’t believe the opportunity would have been possible without her teammates.
“It says a lot about them that they kept giving me the ball to shoot,” Prahalis said. “The fact I can go out like this in my senior night is really unselfish of them.”
The Buckeyes return to action Sunday for their regular season finale when they travel to Lincoln, Neb., to face the No. 23 Cornhuskers (20-6, 9-5 Big Ten). Opening tip is scheduled for 4 p.m.