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Prahalis’ 25 points not enough to propel Buckeyes to victory

When the Michigan women’s basketball team (13-8, 6-2) defeated Ohio State (13-7, 4-4) on Dec. 30, the Wolverines benefited from a 1-for-13 shooting performance from OSU junior guard Samantha Prahalis. Thursday night at the Schottenstein Center, the Wolverines weren’t as fortunate — however, they were still victorious.

Prahalis connected on her first seven shots of the night, five of which were 3-pointers. But her 25-point, six-assist performance wasn’t enough for the Buckeyes, as they fell to Michigan 69-66 in a game that may have come down to last-minute free throws.

“I give (Michigan) a lot of credit. They played very well,” OSU coach Jim Foster said following his team’s second loss to Michigan this season. “They executed. We didn’t.”

Not having missed a shot in the first half, Prahalis connected on a buzzer-beating 3-point attempt at the end of the first half to give OSU a 46-33 lead.

Prahalis’ perfect first half, in which she scored 19 points, helped the Buckeyes weather a barrage of Wolverine 3-pointers, as Michigan connected on eight of its first 12 shots from beyond the arc.

“I just got in a good rhythm,” Prahalis said. “I just was a little hot tonight and just found a good rhythm.”

Though Michigan couldn’t find a way to slow down Prahalis, foul trouble did.

OSU’s leading scorer picked up her third foul with 16 minutes remaining in the game and the Buckeyes up by 12 points. With Prahalis saddled onto the bench, the Wolverines cut OSU’s lead down to as few as five points before Prahalis returned with 10 minutes remaining.

“She is our point guard, and she makes the ball move,” Foster said. “She’s got to understand fouls. A silly foul can be costly down the road.”

Even with Prahalis back in the game, the Buckeyes struggled to extend their lead, as Michigan’s Rachel Sheffer’s 3-point shot with a minute remaining in the game cut the Buckeyes’ lead to one point. After a missed jumper by Prahalis, Sheffer connected on two free throws to give Michigan a 67-66 lead with 29 seconds remaining.

Sheffer finished the game with a team-high 23 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Wolverines.

After an OSU timeout, Prahalis came up short on another jumper. However, senior guard Alison Jackson grabbed the rebound and was fouled on a put-back attempt.

With the chance to tie the game with one basket, or take the lead with two, Jackson stepped to the line for her two free throws.

She missed both.

OSU senior guard Brittany Johnson added 14 points for the Buckeyes, and senior center Jantel Lavender scored 10 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Lavender’s ninth rebound of the game made her the Big Ten’s career leader in rebounds.

“It’s awesome that it hasn’t been broken in 26 years,” Lavender said. “I just rebound hard and try to get every rebound.”

OSU’s loss Thursday snapped a three-conference-game winning streak for the six-time defending Big Ten champions.

The Buckeyes travel to State College, Pa., to face Penn State at 2 p.m. Sunday.

“We’ve got to have some of these young players continue to progress and understand that one game is not the next,” Foster said. “What you have to do in one game, you might have to do something else the next time you’re out there.”

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