Ohio State clinched its second consecutive outright Big Ten women’s basketball championship with a 65-59 win at Minnesota on Sunday afternoon.
The Golden Gophers led for most of the first 25 minutes of the game, but Ohio State point guard Samantha Prahalis tied the score at 39 with a pair of free throws at the 14:15 mark of the second half.
Twenty-three seconds later, Sarah Schulze put the Buckeyes on top for the first time with a three-pointer from the left wing.
Minnesota tied the game twice thereafter, at 43 and then at 45, but never regained the lead.
Jantel Lavender, who scored 14 points and had nine rebounds, put the Buckeyes ahead for good, 47-45, with a bank shot just after the 10-minute mark, and from there the visitors slowly choked the life out of their hosts with defensive pressure, offensive execution and sharp shooting from the free throw line.
On the next two Minnesota possessions, Shavelle Little had a pair of steals, and then she picked up an assist when she set up a deep jump shot by Lavender with a drive and kick.
The Buckeyes extended the lead to its largest point, 53-45, at the 5:42 mark when Prahalis tossed a 50-foot pass to teammate Tayler Hill, who caught it and finished with a layup.
At that point, Minnesota head coach Pam Borton called a timeout to try to cut the Buckeyes’ momentum, a practice that had some impact as the Gophers scored on back-to-back possessions with a three-pointer by Katie Ohm and a layup by Ashley Ellis-Milan, but that 53-50 margin was as close as the Gophers would get the rest of the way.
Ohio State made 9 of 10 free throws in the final 1:07 to close out the victory.
Although she made only 3 of 16 shots from the field, Prahalis led all scorers with 19 points. She made all 12 of her free throw attempts and dished out eights assists.
In her first game back in her hometown, Hill had 13 points.
Jackie Voigt led Minnesota with 15 points before fouling out in the final minute, and fellow forward Zoe Harper added 10.
The Buckeyes have won a conference-record six Big Ten championships in a row, including outright titles in 2006, ’07, 09 and this season. Ohio State has 13 Big Ten titles overall, including eight outright.