MINNEAPOLIS – Tayler Hill knows plenty about expectations, which is why she’s assimilated so well as a freshman for Ohio State (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) .
In front of a throng of family and friends in the state where she is the all-time leading high school scorer, Hill scored 13 points as the Buckeyes topped Minnesota 64-59 on Sunday, capturing the outright Big Ten title for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes (25-3, 13-2 Big Ten) clinched a share of the conference crown with their victory over Purdue on Thursday, becoming the only Big Ten men’s or women’s basketball program to win six consecutive conference titles. Sunday’s win guaranteed Ohio State’s fourth outright Big Ten crown during that stretch and a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament beginning March 4 in Indianapolis.
“I think I’ve done pretty well adjusting,” Hill said. “It’s been a great challenge building my game all around and learning other aspects of the game.”
Hill scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half to supplement Samantha Prahalis’ game-high 19 points. Jantel Lavender also finished in double figures with 14.
Sophomore Jackie Voigt led Minnesota with 15 points and Zoe Harper chipped in 10. The Gophers (12-13, 5-9) lost for the seventh time in their last eight games, but hung with the Big Ten’s best after losing 81-58 in Columbus on Jan. 28.
“We’ve had a lot of ugly games,” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. “Our team is just trying to get back to playing Minnesota basketball. I think we’ve done that the last two games. We can learn from the stretch we have had and get better as a team.”
A victory over Ohio State would have gone far in helping Minnesota turn things around after losing six straight games following its 11-6 start to the season. But the Buckeyes’ 8-0 run to snap a 45-45 tie was the decisive blow after the Gophers led for nearly 30 minutes.
“We don’t take moral victories,” Voigt said. “We should’ve won that game.”
Ohio State shot just 35.3 percent from the floor and went 2-for-12 from the 3-point line, but a 26 of 30 showing from the free-throw line was enough to capture the victory it’s record-setting Big Ten title.
“When I took the job at Ohio State I realized, unlike a lot of schools, there’s no Sweet 16 or Elite Eight, those kind of banners floating around,” Buckeyes coach Jim Foster said. “It’s about championships. It’s about Big Ten championships, it’s about national championships. We’d like to be able to add one of them.”
With Hill emerging among an already accomplished group of underclassmen, Ohio State is moving in the right direction.