On Thursday night at Williams Arena, the Minnesota Golden Gophers gave their clearest indication of leaving behind a three-year period of mediocrity, when they defeated long-time nemesis Ohio State 83-74.
The crowds have been slow to arrive, but word about Minnesota's (13-4, 2-1) improvements may soon spread to fans that fled long ago as they proved last year's win over Ohio State (10-6, 0-3) at Williams Arena was no fluke. Minnesota has now won seven of their last eight games
Ohio State has been so dominant in the series that a meeting with Minnesota usually meant a surefire win, but their caliber of talent has dropped this year, especially in the post. The Gophers capitalized on the Buckeyes' passive interior play, sometimes running circles around their frontcourt.
Minnesota finished with a 44-29 rebounding advantage, including a 22-8 lead in offensive rebounds, resulting in a 19-4 wallop in second chance points.
When the Gophers got off the boards, their aggression shifted to other defensive facets, scoring 30 points off 17 turnovers.
Minnesota had a 50-31 halftime lead and led by as much as 23. Ohio State made a late surge to add some drama, but a putrid three-point accuracy stunted their attack. Senior guard Tayler Hill, a WNBA first-round draft pick prospect, scored 24 points to lead Ohio State and keep first place in the Big Ten scoring race, but missed all nine of her three-point attempts. Overall, the Buckeyes made just two of 16 three-point shots.
Sophomore guard Rachel Banham bounced back after bricking all 10 shots in Sunday's win at Wisconsin, getting 24 points and six rebounds to lead Minnesota. Junior forward Micaella Riche had 20 points and eight rebounds, with Kionna Kellogg chipping in 13 points and eight rebounds.
Minnesota will return to work next Thursday, when they travel to Purdue.