MINNEAPOLIS – Rachel Banham scored 20 points and made three 3-pointers, helping Minnesota take down No. 9 Ohio State 76-68 on Sunday.
Kiara Buford added 15 points and seven assists for the Golden Gophers (12-11, 4-5 Big Ten), who beat a ranked team for the first time in nearly three years. They did it by dominating the post, outscoring the Buckeyes 36-20 in the paint with Katie Loberg and Micaella Riche taking it to the young Ohio State frontcourt.
Samantha Prahalis, the reigning Big Ten Women's Player of the Week, snapped to life in the second half with 19 of her 25 points. But the Buckeyes (20-2, 7-2) never fully recovered from their early shooting struggles. Minneapolis native Tayler Hill led the team with 26 points, but she shot just 3 for 11 from 3-point range. Ohio State missed a chance to move into a first-place tie with the Purdue in the conference race after the Boilermakers lost at Iowa on Saturday.
Prahalis scored the first five points of the second half to pull Ohio State within 34-33, but Banham — Minnesota's flourishing freshman point guard — answered with a 3-pointer. She got fouled shooting behind the arc two minutes later and swished all three free throws.
Banham picked up her fourth foul shortly after halftime and spent much of the stretch on the bench, but the rest of her teammates picked up the slack.
Prahalis played the villain part well, trying to fire her team up with a flurry of fast moves to the basket for tricky layups and well-timed 3-pointers to keep the game competitive. She picked up her fourth foul near the 7½-minute mark for an ill-advised backcourt reach-in. She hit back-to-back 3-pointers, the last bringing the Buckeyes within 63-59. The spunky, dark-haired native of upstate New York with a scowl to match her on-court intensity nodded her head and flashed her hot hand to the Williams Arena crowd after the second one with less than six minutes left.
That was as close as they came, though.
Prahalis missed a pair of free throws with 2:26 left and the Buckeyes trailing by 10, causing the Gophers fans to roar with delight. The attendance of 5,626 was their most at home this season.
The Buckeyes went nearly 6½ minutes without making a basket — two free throws by Hill were their only points in that stretch — in the first half until a putback by Ashley Adams ended the drought to cut the Minnesota lead to 25-15. Thanks to a burst of Gophers turnovers — they had nine in the final seven minutes before the break, most of them in the backcourt on simple entry passes — the Buckeyes climbed back in the game and were down only 34-28 at the intermission.
The best shooting team in the Big Ten, with three of the top six individuals by percentage, failed to find its stoke all afternoon. Hill, the conference's leading scorer, finished 8 for 23 from the floor. The Gophers, meanwhile, went 6 for 10 from 3-point range.
After seven NCAA tournament appearances in eight seasons, including a trip to the Final Four in 2004, the Gophers haven't been able to regain that success. Their last win over a team ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 came in 2009, a first-round victory over Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament. They haven't played in the postseason since, going a combined 13-27 in Big Ten games entering Sunday.
Their last win over a Top 10 team was in 2006, here against Michigan State. They'd beaten Ohio State only three times in the last 15 meetings.