Samantha Prahalis has always been a unique player, so it was fitting she had the type of Senior Night no Ohio State basketball player ever had before.
The Buckeye point guard poured in 42 points to break Katie Smith’s single-game school record and led the eighth-ranked Buckeyes to an 81-56 win over Minnesota on Thursday night in Columbus. Her total represents the most points ever scored by a single player in the 14-year history of Value City Arena.
Prahalis had the first eight points of the game and hardly slowed down from that point. She made 15 of 27 shots, including 7 of 12 three-pointers, and went 5 for 5 from the free throw line.
She tied Smith’s mark of 40 with a three-pointer from just to the left of the top of the key with 6:20 to go in the second half.
Prahalis broke the record with a pair of free throws at the 2:27 mark, although she said she wasn’t aware of how many she needed until the feat was announced over the loudspeaker. By that time she had already gone to the bench as 5,344 fans stood and cheered.
The player who came to Ohio State four years ago from Commack, N.Y., with the nickname “Pistol Pete with a Ponytail” because of her flashy passing and dribbling said she never dreamed of such a sendoff in her last home game.
“It was special tonight. I don’t know. I guess God wanted it to be special so it was special,” she said. “I just got into a pretty good rhythm and then it was almost like one of those nights where you don’t really see the defenders. You get hot and you just keep hitting. My teammates found me. I think it shows – they kept getting me the ball. They could have taken shots but they kept getting it to me to shoot so that says a lot about them.”
Her historic free throws came on the same possession she set up teammates Amber Stokes and Raven Ferguson with open shots they did not make, something head coach Jim Foster said should not be overlooked.
“That whole sequence was a great hustle sequence because we had a couple of those offensive rebounds,” he said as the Buckeyes bounced back from a humiliating 84-66 loss at Penn State on Monday. “Our energy even that late in the game was still where it needed to be so that little flurry was probably a good reflection of the evening.”
With eyes still red from an emotional postgame ceremony in which Prahalis thanked the fans, friends and family, her teammates and the coaching staff, Foster wondered aloud if someone planned his feisty point guard’s finale.
“Come on? I don’t know who wrote the script but somebody did,” Foster said. “You haven’t even talked about zero turnovers. I mean think about it: She was all over the place, helping on defense, second leading rebounder, led us in assists and scored the points.”
With the win, the Buckeyes improved to 24-4 overall and 11-4 in the Big Ten. They remain a game behind Penn State with one left to play but clinched the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Big Ten tournament thanks to the victory and a Thursday night loss by Nebraska.
The Lady Lions will clinch the outright regular season title if they beat the Gophers at home on Sunday, but Ohio State can claim a share of the crown if they win at Nebraska and Penn State falters.
“We want to win today and win on Sunday,” Prahalis said. “It’s really important to us. Now we have the two seed. We’re not looking past Nebraska, though. Further than that we’ll take on when it comes.”
Aside from Prahalis’ heroics, the Buckeyes got 16 points from Tayler Hill and nine rebounds from Ashley Adams.
Freshman point guard Rachel Banham led Minnesota with 18 points while Micaella Riche added 14 off the bench.
The Gophers (14-15, 6-9) struggled all night offensively. They turned the ball over 18 times and made only 17 of 59 shots (26.7 percent). They were 9 for 29 (31.0 percent) from three-point range and never led in the game.
“This is one of the more special performances I’ve seen while I’ve been at Minnesota,” Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said. “I’ve been in the Big Ten for 10 years and to have a senior night, the way she played and the way she came out focused. She’s a competitor.”
Prahalis moved into fourth place on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list with 1,949 points, passing Tracey Hall who scored 1,912 points from 1985-88.
The Buckeyes completed their home slate 19-0, the third undefeated home mark in Foster’s 10 years as head coach.
Smith’s 40-point game came Dec. 11, 1994, during a 119-63 victory over Idaho State at the Kona Classic in Hawaii.
Prahalis’ previous career high was 34 points on Feb. 6 against Wisconsin.