You had to see it to believe it. No. 4 Ohio State and point guard Samantha Prahalis of Commack are in the midst of an outstanding season, but the Buckeyes suffered their second loss of the season and first in Big Ten play Monday night when Prahalis blew a wide-open layup that could have sent the game to overtime just before the buzzer. The Lady Boilermakers overcame Ohio State's opening 16-0 burst to win, 63-61.
The Buckeyes (20-2, 8-1 Big Ten) are trying to gain a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and losing to mediocre Purdue (10-10, 5-4) certainly didn't help. Ohio State's only other loss this season came at Duke.
After taking the big early lead, Ohio State let the game slip away with careless play and extremely poor shooting from its key players. All-American Jantel Lavender had 17 points and 10 rebounds, but made only six of 18 field-goal attempts, repeatedly missing open shots underneath. Brittany Johnson had 16 points for the Buckeyes, but Prahalis finished with just 11 on 3-of-13 shooting, and her six assists barely outnumbered her five turnovers.
It was a classic ambush as the Lady Boilers were led by freshmen reserves K.K. Houser (18 points) and Sam Ostarello (14 points). With time winding down, Prahalis hit a clutch three-pointer with 7.8 seconds left to close Ohio State's deficit to 63-61. Purdue had made all 14 foul shots it took when Brittany Rayburn, an 85 percent foul shooter, went to the line and missed.
Ohio State rebounded, and the outlet went to Prahalis, who dribbled up the right side of the floor, angled toward the basket and miraculously saw Purdue's defense roll out a red carpet to the rim. Finding herself so open seemed to unnerve Prahalis, who put the ball too high of the glass and then grabbed her head in disbelief as it bounced off the front rim. She probably hadn't missed that shot since she was strong enough to get it to the basket, but this time it stayed out.
It was that kind of game for the Buckeyes, who still have plenty of time to pull out that No. 1 seed but really can't afford any more efforts as sloppy as the one at Purdue.