Rarely does the transitive property ever play out in sports. The Minnesota women’s basketball team hopes it can hold true this weekend.
No. 4 Ohio State welcomes the Gophers to Columbus on Thursday, just three days after the Buckeyes’ 63-61 loss to Purdue. Minnesota destroyed the Boilermakers, 74-47, on Jan. 14.
Calling Ohio State dominant in the Big Ten would be an understatement. They lead the conference in points per game with 79.5 — 10 points more than any other team. The Buckeyes also have an average scoring margin of plus-20.6 points per game, which is seventh in the NCAA.
Those stats make Purdue’s upset over Ohio State, which snapped the Buckeye’s 12-game winning streak, all the more surprising.
“I think, as we can see with Purdue beating them, anything is possible,” Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to get off this two-game losing streak.”
Ohio State boasts two of the top players in the Big Ten in junior center Jantel Lavender and sophomore guard Samantha Prahalis. Lavender leads the conference in scoring with 21.1 points per game and is second in rebounding with 10.3 per game. Prahalis leads the Big Ten averaging 7.73 assists per game and is sixth in scoring with 15.6 points per game.
Despite Ohio State’s star power, recent history plays in Minnesota’s favor against the Buckeyes, as one of the biggest wins for the Gophers last season came when they won 59-56 in Columbus, marking the first time Minnesota had won at Ohio State in program history.
“Ohio State can be beaten, and I think if we can go in there and get off to a fast start, that will help,” sophomore Jackie Voigt said.
The Gophers will once again be without the services of junior guard China Antoine. Borton said she will be out against Ohio State as the team continues to take her knee injury day by day.
Senior Katie Ohm got the start last Sunday in Antoine’s place and responded by scoring 10 points in 30 minutes in a loss to Michigan State.
Minnesota also misses Antoine for her ball-handling ability. The Gophers still lead the Big Ten in turnover margin, being plus-4.16 on the season, but in the two games that Antoine has missed they have averaged 14 turnovers per game.
“I have all the confidence in the world with Brittany [McCoy] out there, and Key [Kiara Buford] is another primary ball handler. I think they’ll be fine,” Borton said.
After Ohio State, the Gophers then move on to face one of the coldest teams in the Big Ten as they host Illinois, losers of four-straight games, at 4 p.m. Sunday at Williams Arena.
The Illini have been unable to distinguish themselves from the bottom of the Big Ten and are currently tied for last place in the conference. However, one of Illinois’ three conference wins came at Minnesota’s expense, as the Illini won 64-62 on Jan. 10 in Champaign.
Perhaps the one and only threat Illinois possesses is senior Jenna Smith. The Bloomington, Minn., native is second in the Big Ten in scoring, with 19.3 points per game and tops in the conference in rebounding, averaging 10.9 per game. Smith torched the Gophers in their first meeting with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
“I thought we did a good job in the first half of limiting [Smith] in the first game, but we’ve got to do a better job on her,” Borton said. “Obviously we felt that game was taken away from us there, and we’re looking forward to getting one back.”
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