Minnesota wrapped up its Big Ten tournament run Saturday night in Indianapolis with a loss in the semifinals against the Buckeyes.
Heading into the Big Ten semifinals, the Gophers (23-8, 11-5 Big Ten) knew that this would be their toughest matchup yet against the No. 1 seed Ohio State. Both teams possessed the offensive firepower to create a high scoring game with Minnesota averaging 85.1 points per game and Ohio State 85.2.
This proved to be true with a final score of 90-88, with Ohio State (26-6, 14-3 Big Ten) clinching a victory to send them to the finals.
“I'm really, really proud of our kids and how they fought and how they battled,” head coach Marlene Stollings told reporters. “This is a team that has come a long way.”
The Gophers came into the final quarter leading the Buckeyes 77-75. The team looked to keep their lead heading into the final quarter, and with 4:40 remaining, Minnesota held a six-point lead.
But a shift in momentum and a late overturned call gave the Buckeyes possession of the ball and a lead over the Gophers.
Minnesota was unable to find the net, scoring only 11 points total in the final quarter, compared to Ohio’s 15. Minnesota was trailing in the remaining six seconds of the game by two, and were unable to tie the game, sending Ohio State into the Big Ten finals.
“We wanted to go all the way to the championship game, obviously, but we can't let it sting too long because we've got a lot more to do and the NCAA Tournament coming up,” Gophers guard Carlie Wagner told reporters.
Kelsey Mitchel, the Big Ten Player of the Year by the coaches, reached over 3,000 career points and had 18 points in the first half. The Gophers started the game by trailing until there was 2:30 remaining in the quarter, when Minnesota took their first lead of the game. The Gophers had a 19-4 run in the first, sending them into the second quarter with a 10-point lead over the Buckeyes.
Ohio State outscored Minnesota 29-18 in the second quarter. It was a one-possession game for the majority of the quarter, with Wagner leading the team with 24 points, followed by guard Kenisha Bell with 11. By the end of the first half, Wagner was on track to a career record in scoring points.
By the end of the fourth quarter, Bell led the team with 27 points, nine rebounds, and 10 assists. Minnesota shot 41.1 percent field goals while Ohio State averaged 44.2 percent.
"We thought we had something in transition, and instead of pulling it back out and settling down and staying poised, we were kind of rushing it," Bell told reporters. "I think that kind of messed us up in the long run.”
Ohio State is expected to play either three-time defending champions and No. 2 seed Maryland, or the No. 3 seed Nebraska on Sunday at 7 p.m.
Minnesota will play next in the NCAA tournament, which begins on Friday, March 23. They have a current RPI of 40, which would be enough to make the 64-team tournament.