Feb. 23, 2012
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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."
- With 42 points, Samantha Prahalis set an Ohio State single-game record, breaking the previous mark of 40 set by Katie Smith back on Dec. 11, 1994.
- With her 42 points, Samantha 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.
- With the win, Ohio State clinches a two-seed in the Big Ten Tournament next week with Nebraska's loss at Michigan State tonight.
- The victory gives the Buckeyes a perfect 19-0 record at home, marking the third undefeated home season of Jim Foster's career at Ohio State. The 19-0 mark is the best in Division I this season.
- Ohio State has now won 22 consecutive games at home, the fourth-longest active streak in Division I.
- Ohio State can still capture a share of the Big Ten regular season title with a victory Sunday at Nebraska coupled with a loss by Penn State to Minnesota Sunday.
- Ohio State has hit at least one 3-pointer in 115 consecutive games.
- All 13 Buckeyes on the roster played Thursday night, including Amy Scullion, who has not played since Dec. 30, 2011 at Wisconsin because of a leg injury.
Jim Foster, Ohio State head coach
On Samantha Prahalis' performance
"She was all over the place. Second in rebounds, leading in assists and scored the points. "
On Prahalis' unique personality
"There are a lot of silly people in this world. 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."
On getting the ball to Prahalis
"I think we reversed the ball a bit more tonight, so the ball got in her hands. She knew what to do with it."
Samantha Prahalis, senior guard
On her start to the game
"I just got into a pretty good rhythm and it was almost like one of those nights when you don't see the defenders, you just get hot."
On her teammates getting her the ball
"My teammates found me. It says a lot about them that they kept giving me the ball to shoot. It shows they have faith in me. The fact I can go out like this in my senior night is really unselfish of them. I have 12 other girls who are great and it's just special."
On people criticizing her game
"I'm used to it. It happened in high school too. I'm just appreciative of the people who I have in my corner and the fans here."
On her relationship with Coach Foster
"It's a special one. He is the one who has stuck behind me since day one. It's not supposed to be easy. He's supposed to tell me the truth. He's been honest and that's why I've been able to grow."
On the season
"I just wanted it to be a good year. Everyone has stepped up. There is always adversity in the season. It's never going to be perfect. If it is perfect, why play? You take the good with bad."
Pam Borton, Minnesota head coach
On the game tonight
"(Samantha) Prahalis had a special night. She's a competitor and she's feisty, she has some swag. She played her last game at this arena just like she envisioned it. We didn't have an answer for her. She got hot and it didn't feel like she missed much."
On Prahalis trying to score on senior night
"That is what makes it tough to play her on senior night. To play a competitor that wanted to finish things like that. I didn't believe that she was going to have 42, but she didn't miss. She made some shots that she hasn't made all year. She is averaging two made threes per game and she made seven tonight. A lot was going her way."
On Prahalis' performance all-time
"This is one of the more special performances I've seen while I've been at Minnesota. 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."
On getting back into the game
"It felt like we were going to get back into it. I thought we were lucky to only be down by 12. We missed 11 shots in the lane and we didn't finish well in the lane tonight. We need to get tougher and finish with contact. We are not going to get calls on the road, we need to understand that."