Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor
The Ohio State women’s basketball team’s attempt at a fourth straight Big Ten Tournament championship fell short this weekend at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Behind a record-breaking performance from senior guard Samantha Prahalis, the Buckeyes (25-6, 11-6 Big Ten) defeated Michigan, 57-48, Friday to advance to the tournament semifinals. OSU was dispatched after a 77-62 loss to No. 6-seed Nebraska Saturday. Nebraska then lost the championship game to Purdue, 74-70, in a double-overtime contest on Sunday.
The Buckeyes will now wait to see if they receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins Saturday, March 17.
Going into the tournament, OSU was the No. 2-seed behind Penn State. After receiving a first-round bye, the Buckeyes played the No. 7-seed Wolverines, winning the quarterfinal matchup thanks in part to Prahalis, who broke the conference’s career assist record in the game. Prahalis overtook Northwestern’s Nancy Kennelly to become the all-time assist leader in the Big Ten. Prahalis’ five assists in the game surpassed Kennelly’s 892, who played from 1989-1993.
In the semifinals, OSU met the Cornhuskers, which was a rematch of the 71-57 OSU loss Feb. 26, in Lincoln, Neb.
The Buckeyes started strong after Prahalis hit a 3-point shot to give the Buckeyes a 24-11 lead.
After the bucket, the Cornhuskers went on a tear, making seven straight shots. The run ended with 16 points for Nebraska, making the score 27-24 at 2:50 in the first half. After a technical foul on Prahalis, Nebraska junior guard Lindsey Moore hit both her foul shots before freshman guard Brandi Jeffery hit a jump shot to give Nebraska an eight-point lead. The Buckeyes answered with a Prahalis layup, but the Cornhuskers’ 25-6 run put Nebraska ahead, 36-30, going into the locker room.
Nebraska kept the momentum going in the second half, as sophomore forward Jordan Hooper hit a 3-point shot to give the Cornhuskers a 14-point lead at 17:20 in the game. OSU wouldn’t regain the lead as the Cornhuskers increased with less than 10 minutes left in the game.
In Friday’s the first half, neither team held a definitive lead, with the biggest point differential being 5 points. OSU jumped out to an early 7-2 lead before Michigan regained it, 14-9, at 12:00 in the half. The seesaw battle continued for the remainder of the half, as the Buckeyes entered the locker room with a 25-22 lead.
The second half saw the Buckeyes take full control of the lead. With 11:55 in the game, junior guard Tayler Hill scored on a fast break layup to put OSU ahead, 43-29. Hill’s bucket was part of a 6-0 run. The lead was shortlived, however, and the Wolverines mounted their own offensive. Michigan senior guard Courtney Boylan hit a 3-point shot to bring the Wolverines within five points with 1:03 left in the game, but it was too little too late, as the Buckeyes held on for the 57-48 victory.
The Division I NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Selection Show will be broadcast on March 12 at 7 p.m. The show will air on ESPN.