COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Samantha Prahalis made her last home game a very memorable one.
The senior guard scored a school-record 42 points in her final home game and No. 8 Ohio State routed Minnesota 81-56 on Thursday night.
“I just got into a pretty good rhythm,” said Prahalis, the Buckeyes’ only senior. “It was almost like one of those nights where you don’t really see the defenders.”
Prahalis, leading the Big Ten in both scoring (21.3 points per game) and assists (6.7), had 22 points by halftime as the Buckeyes (24-4, 11-4) built a 12-point lead.
She hit 15 of 27 shots from the field including 7 of 12 3-pointers, and was 5 for 5 at the line. She also had six rebounds, four assists and three steals before leaving to a standing ovation with 2:27 left after breaking Katie Smith’s 1994 record by hitting two free throws.
“I don’t know who wrote the script. Somebody did,” said Ohio State’s Jim Foster, in his 34th season as a head coach. “You haven’t even talked about zero turnovers. Think about it: She was all over the place, helping on defense, our second-leading rebounder, led us in assists and scored the points.”
Minnesota (14-15, 6-9) coach Pam Borton said she’d never seen a better performance in her decade in the Big Ten.
“It’s probably one of the most special performances that I’ve seen since I’ve been at Minnesota,” she said. “On senior night, the way she played and the way she came out focused. She’s a competitor, what more can you say? She made sure she was going to have an evening like this.”
Prahalis did it right from the outset.
She hit a 3 on Ohio State’s first possession and then later hit a pop-and-stop jumper from the right wing. Her two free throws gave her all the points as the Buckeyes took a quick 8-4 lead against a Golden Gophers (14-15, 6-9) team that had beaten them earlier this season in Minnesota.
After Tayler Hill, the Big Ten’s No. 2 scorer who had 16 points, made two free throws, Prahalis was at it again. She stole the ball and hit accompanying layup, then hit another 3 for a 17-10 lead.
The Golden Gophers, led by Rachel Banham’s 18 points and the 14 points and 11 rebounds of Micaella Riche, never got closer than that again.
Still, in the second half with Minnesota still hanging around, Prahalis put an end to any thoughts of anyone putting a damper on her big night. On consecutive trips down the floor she hit 3s to push the lead to 51-34.
Fans chanted, “Thank you, Samantha!” near the finish.
Prahalis had been a focal point all season for the Buckeyes. Even when they stumbled in three games against second-tier teams in the conference — teams with a combined 41 losses through Thursday’s games — she still said she was proud of what the team had accomplished.
“I like the challenge I was presented,” she said of the pressure applied to her as the most experienced player. “I don’t know, I just wanted it to be a good year. And everyone stepped up.”
Foster said his players didn’t try to get Prahalis the ball; she just took advantage of being in an offensive zone.
“We just reversed the ball a little bit more tonight. So the ball was coming back into her hands — and she knew what to do with it,” he said. “She had the feel. When you feel like that and you have that skill set that she possesses, things like this can happen.”
Prahalis said she and Smith, who led Ohio State to the national championship game in the 1990s before a sterling professional career, are good friends. A loss at Penn State on Monday night that all but eliminated the Buckeyes from winning the Big Ten spurred her to play harder in her home finale.
“I just felt on Monday I could have been more active on the boards and on defense and it kind of bothered me — it really bothered me, actually,” she said. “So 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.”
And she was.
“We didn’t have an answer for her. She got hot and it didn’t feel like she missed much,” Borton said. “Never did I believe she was going to have 42, but she didn’t miss. A lot was going her way.”
After the Buckeyes put the finishing touches on the win — which locked up second place in the Big Ten behind champion Penn State — she was honored along with several managers who are classmates. She took the microphone and said to her teammates, “After this journey is over, each and every one of you will be in my heart.”
She also thanked Foster and the fans.
Then the Long Island native left the court to the strains of “New York, New York.”
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