After the Gophers' 83-74 victory over Ohio State on Thursday, Buckeyes coach Jim Foster lamented the fact that too many of his players took the night off. Gophers coach Pam Borton lauded hers for the work they have put in throughout the season, which paved the way for a dominant performance at Williams Arena.
The Gophers (13-4) used balanced scoring, aggressive defense and a smart, well-executed game plan to roll to a 50-31 halftime lead and lift their Big Ten record to 2-1.
Guard Rachel Banham paced them with 24 points, and a pair of forwards -- Micaella Riche and Kionna Kellogg -- came up big. Riche scored 20 points and added eight rebounds, and Kellogg, in her best performance of the season, scored 13 on five-of-six shooting while grabbing eight boards.
A crowd of 3,369 saw the Gophers outrebound Ohio State 44-29 and score 28 points off of turnovers.
They pulled down 22 offensive rebounds, scoring 19 second-chance points to the Buckeyes' four as they continued their best start since 2005-06. Ohio State (10-6) fell to 0-3 in league play.
Buckeyes senior guard Tayler Hill, a prep star at Minneapolis South, finished with a team-high 24 points in her final game at Williams Arena. Hill had strep throat and missed the bulk of Wednesday's practice, as well as Thursday's shootaround. Foster was not certain she would play, but she logged 40 minutes to anchor her young team.
Borton and Riche said the team has been putting in extra time in the gym and in the weight room, with everyone buying into the idea that their effort will pay dividends. Thursday's victory felt like a reward, as well as a sign of what they are capable of if they continue.
"This was a great win for us, a great all-around game,'' Borton said. "We're playing great basketball right now, and I think the best is yet to come. We're not even close to peaking right now.''
The Gophers appeared crisp and assured throughout the first half, taking the lead on a three-pointer by Shayne Mullaney and steadily stretching it to 19 points.
On defense, they harassed Ohio State into 12 first-half turnovers, which they converted into 24 points. On offense, they moved the ball effectively, set up good shots and crashed the boards for 14 offensive rebounds.
The Buckeyes tied it 7-7 before the Gophers took off on a 14-4 run, with Banham and Kellogg combining for 12 of those points. As Ohio State's offense struggled to find its rhythm, Hill attempted only two shots in the first nine minutes -- missing both -- and did not score until hitting a pair of free throws with 11 minutes remaining in the half.
She made two more foul shots 90 seconds later to cut the Gophers' lead to 23-20. The Gophers responded with a 12-2 spurt, then outscored the Buckeyes 9-1 over the final 2 1/2 minutes of the half.
The Buckeyes crept back into it in the late stages, drawing as close as eight points with 1:20 remaining, but their rally stalled as they missed their final three shots.