In a season full of disappointments, Ohio State suffered its toughest yet Thursday night thanks to Rachel Banham.
A sophomore Minnesota guard and the Big Ten’s leading scorer, Banham lost the individual scoring matchup with Ohio State senior star Tayler Hill, but the Golden Gopher had the last laugh as she made a contested leaner in the final second to put Minnesota on top 57-56 and stun a crowd of 2,952 at Value City Arena.
“Heck of a shot,” Ohio State head coach Jim Foster said. “Two people on her. Double clutch, fading. Heck of a shot. She made it.”
Seconds earlier, Buckeye sophomore Raven Ferguson looked as if she would be the hero of the game after draining back-to-back threes in a matter of about nine seconds to turn a five-point deficit into a one-point Ohio State lead with eight seconds to go.
“We executed at the end,” Foster said. “We did what you need to do at the end. First (Amber) Stokes with the bankshot and then Raven with her two threes. We got a good trap and then the steal for the second three. I thought we defended them coming up the floor about as well as you can defend them.”
The furious finish left the Buckeyes (14-12, 4-9) with their highest loss total in Big Ten play since a 6-10 campaign in 2000-01.
Minnesota improved to 16-11 overall and 5-8 in conference. With the victory, the Gophers took sole possession of eighth place in the standings while Ohio State slid into a ninth-place tie with Northwestern.
“Everybody got their money’s worth, didn’t they?” Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said.
With no timeouts left, she had no choice but to let her team inbound the ball and look for a game-winner. That didn’t seem to bother her, though, as long as she had Banham handling it.
“I think Rachel was pretty mad about getting the ball ripped out of her hands on the other end,” Borton said. “I knew she was going to make that shot. She’s a competitor. That’s how she is.”
Banham finished with 17 points despite missing 10 of her 16 shots from the field. She had a hard time dealing with the defense of Hill and Stokes, but the sophomore received a lift from teammate Micaella Riche, who scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds.
Hill, the Big Ten scoring champ last season and the state of Minnesota’s all-time leading prep scorer, had 25 points on the night. Hill also struggled from the field, going 5 for 17, but she went 14 for 14 from the free-throw line. That set single-game school records for both total free throws made and free throws made without a miss.
Entering the night, Hill led the conference in scoring (23.1 points per game to Banham’s 21.3) during league play while Banham topped her 21.3 to 21.1 in all games.
Ferguson and Stokes finished with 10 apiece to give the Buckeyes three double-figure scorers, but a team-wide shooting slump continued to haunt the former kings of the league.
Ohio State trailed 26-20 at the half thanks in no small part to a 6-for-31 showing from the field, a 19.4-percent mark. After going 12 for 27 (44.4 percent) in the second half, they finished at 31 percent (18 for 58) for the game.
The three-point line was also unkind as the Buckeyes started 1 for 14 before Ferguson hit her pair in the final seconds.
Foster was frustrated with the offense but saw his defense keep the team in the game. The Buckeyes forced 19 turnovers that they turned into 22 points and held the Gophers to 42.2 percent (19 for 45) shooting from the floor.
Minnesota won for only the second time in 26 trips to Columbus. The Gophers’ previous victory at Ohio State was a 59-56 decision in 2009.
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