Another slow-motion start and a predictably motorized game from Minnesota guard Rachel Banham cost Ohio State the chance to finish the regular season at .500 yesterday in Minneapolis.
Banham wrapped up the Big Ten scoring title while scorching the Buckeyes for 27 points in the 74-57 home victory for the Golden Gophers (19-11, 8-8). She took 14 free throws and missed only one of them.
Two familiar breakdowns plagued Ohio State (15-17, 5-11) in the first half: poor shooting and turnovers.
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The Buckeyes were a frigid 7 of 26 from the field in the first 20 minutes. Compounding the problem, they turned the ball over 10 times in the half, leading to 18 Gophers points and a 35-21 deficit at the break.
The Gophers’ lead grew to 21 points in the second half before the Buckeyes found some rhythm. Ohio State drew as close as 10 with 6:01 to play but faded down the stretch.
“We wanted to use the press to slow them down,” OSU coach Kevin McGuff said. “We just couldn’t hit enough shots to get into it.
“I think overall our issue was we just didn’t get enough of the 50-50 balls or the tough rebounds. Minnesota played a little bit harder than we did, and that was disappointing.”
With the loss, the Buckeyes look next to the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis this week. Eighth-seeded Ohio State will play ninth-seeded Northwestern in the opening game at noon on Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
McGuff didn’t start sophomore guard Ameryst Alston, who suffered a left shoulder injury on Thursday in a 65-61 loss at Iowa. She played 36 minutes in this one but showed signs of the injury. Alston finished with 11 points, on 4-of-14 shooting, and a game-high nine assists.
“She was really sore, you could see it,” McGuff said. “She missed some shots that she normally makes. I think that she was trying to feel her way through it at the beginning, but she toughed it out.”
The Buckeyes trailed 18-15 with 7:23 remaining in the first half when the offense stalled. The Gophers used the lull to go on a 14-1 run that gave them control of the game.
Banham spent the afternoon going nose-to-nose with Buckeyes guard Cait Craft.
“Cait always plays hard,” McGuff said. “She was very good defensively. Rachel Banham is a great player, one of the best in this league and one of the best in the country. I thought Cait really frustrated her at times.”
Banham made 5 of 14 shots from the field. That included four from three-point range before Craft fouled out with 4:12 to play.
Raven Ferguson led the Buckeyes with 16 points. Martina Ellerbe had 13.
Amanda Zahui B. backed Banham with 14 points and 18 rebounds for Minnesota.