Feb. 8, 2007

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -Ohio State’s 28-game Big Ten winning streak endured a stiff test at Minnesota. The last five games of the conference season might be more difficult if Brandie Hoskins is missing.

Marscilla Packer had 18 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer, to lead the fourth-ranked Buckeyes past the Gophers 70-67 Thursday night.

But there was bad news. Hoskins, one of two senior starters and the team’s second-leading scorer, suffered a foot injury late in the first half and didn’t return.

Hoskins had surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon last March, and coach Jim Foster said she injured the same ankle.

“I just tried to rally everybody and keep everybody’s high hopes,” said Jessica Davenport, who had her second career triple-double – the only two in the program’s history – with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 11 blocks.

Davenport became the Big Ten women’s career leader in blocks with 372, which broke the mark of 367 set by Michigan’s Trish Andrew from 1989-93.

More critically, Davenport – whom Foster described as internal, analytical and thoughtful – turned her voice up a notch to fill the void created by the more outgoing Hoskins.

“Jess had to be a little out there with some of her verbiage, to lead by letting her teammates know that she was out there,” Foster said.

Ohio State (22-1, 11-0), which has won 14 in a row overall, survived despite 25 turnovers and a 10-point deficit midway through the second half.

Ashley Ellis-Milan had 17 points to lead Minnesota (13-12, 5-7), which lost its fourth straight game and gave away a halftime lead over the Buckeyes for the second time this year.

Brittany McCoy’s fast-break layup near the 13-minute mark made it 49-39 Gophers, but Ohio State relied on experience Minnesota doesn’t have to complete the comeback.

Stephanie Blanton’s three-point play brought the Buckeyes to a 61-all tie, and Packer – who had a career-high 32 points and eight 3-pointers in a victory at Minnesota last season – swished one from behind the arc to put Ohio State back in front for good. That made it 64-63 with less than 3 1/2 minutes left.

Star Allen’s jump shot with 17 seconds remaining put the Buckeyes up 70-67, and on the final possession Emily Fox was off the mark on a difficult 3-point attempt at the buzzer.

Fox, a sophomore, was the only non-freshman on the floor at many stages in the second half for the Gophers, who missed eight of their 16 free throws. They are 0-4 since losing starting guard Kelly Roysland, their only senior, to a broken collarbone during a Jan. 25 win at Iowa.

Minnesota has lost its last three games by a total of 10 points, including a three-point decision to now-13th-ranked Purdue last week.

“We’re all sick of moral victories,” said Ellis-Milan, who teamed with Zoe Harper to play tough defense on Davenport, the two-time reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and the conference’s leading scorer.

Fox had 15 points and seven assists, and Leslie Knight added 10 points for the Gophers, who have made five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances after playing in it only once in the program’s first 20 years.

That streak was put in deeper peril, thanks to unflappable Ohio State and Davenport’s clutch contributions down the stretch.

“I think everybody in the gym knew that was going to happen,” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said.