Gophers Put Claws Into Davenport, Bounce OSU
Even amidst a somber scene in the Ohio State locker room, solace could be found.
The top-seeded Buckeyes had just fallen 66-63 in overtime to fourth-seed Minnesota Sunday afternoon in a semifinal game of the Big Ten Tournament, and though there were some long faces, it wasn't the end of the world.
"We weren't able to win, but we know this isn't our last loss," said sophomore guard Brandie Hoskins, who almost single-handedly rescued the Buckeyes as the Gophers denied the ball inside to Big Ten Player of the Year Jessica Davenport. "It's disappointing and all to lose a game we probably could have won, but we know that we'll have other games to play. We know the real tournament starts up here, and it's one loss and you go home.
"So this isn't as bad as it could be. It doesn't feel good, but we can pick ourselves up from this."
The Gophers (24-6) used stifling defense on Davenport, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds but shot an uncharacteristic 5-of-13 from the floor. As a team the usually reliable Buckeyes canned just 43.3 percent, while Minnesota connected on 51.9 percent.
Davenport had a good look at the basket in overtime, but her shot from behind the three-point arc ticked off the left side of the rim and bounced out of harm's way, securing the win for Minnesota.
"I'm very proud of our team for playing like champions," Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. "Our defense prevailed and was a big key to us winning the game. It was a total team effort on Davenport and it's a great win for us over a great basketball team."
Davenport had her hands full guarding Minnesota center Janel McCarville, and the senior showed her stuff by scoring 21 points and corraling 15 rebounds. She also handed out seven assists, many coming when OSU brought someone over from the weak side.
But she exerted her power and strength late in the game, connecting on the Gophers final two baskets that tied the game and forced overtime.
"I tried to be more aggressive today," McCarville said. "I wanted to be more physical and deny Davenport the ball. My teammates were swarming her when I needed help, and that really contributed to us winning."
OSU (28-4) led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but watched an 18-8 lead cut to 22-21 as McCarville and post mate Jamie Broback did damage inside.
Leading 27-25 with three minutes left in the half, OSU got a big three-pointer from Ashley Allen to go up 30-25. Liz Podominick answered with a scoop in the lane, and Minnesota trailed just 30-27 at intermission.
The game was physical, maybe a little too much for Davenport's liking.
But it was part of Minnesota's game plan, and when the officials left it to the players to decide the outcome, the Gophers felt good.
"They were very consistent. You could tell that from the start," McCarville said. "I think we had a little bit of a strength advantage and we tried to use that in our favor."
Ohio State coach Jim Foster said that it was simply a good team exerting the proper amount of force against one that wasn't ready to do anything about it.
"It was a very physical game," he said. "They have a couple of big, strong kids and we didn't do a great job of defending them inside. If you're going to make it a game of strength, there aren't many people who can compete with McCarville. She's about as strong a player as I've seen."
Broback led the Gophers with 24 points, hitting on 10-of-14 shots, in stark contrast to her 3-for-12 night in Columbus, a 65-53 OSU victory Feb. 17.
Hoskins netted 23 oints while Allen added 13, playing her second straight strong game.
Minnesota outrebounded the Buckeyes 36-28, again bringing home the mantra of physical play.