Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis could be playing for Florida right now.
The 2011-12 Big Ten Player of the Year had the Gators listed as one of her top four schools and even visited UF during her recruitment.
However, despite what coach Amanda Butler described as “a good visit,” Prahalis ultimately decided to join the Buckeyes.
“At that time, she was a little more sure that Ohio State was going to be able to do things in the postseason than Florida,” Butler said. “It’s a bit ironic that we’d be meeting now.”
Prahalis will face Butler and UF for the first and only time in her collegiate career in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
The ninth-seeded Gators will try to minimize the impact of the eighth-seeded Buckeyes’ senior point guard, but it won’t be easy.
Prahalis led the Big Ten with 6.4 assists per game this season and her 898 career dimes are the highest total in conference history.
In addition to her skills as a distributor, Prahalis can also be effective as a scorer. She ranks second in the Big Ten this season with 20.1 points per contest, trailing only her teammate Tayler Hill, who averages 20.3 points.
Redshirt senior guard Jordan Jones is impressed with Prahalis’ game after watching her on film, and she admitted to watching some highlight videos of the Wooden Award finalist on YouTube.
“She plays like an And1 player where she kind of tries to make people look stupid,” Jones said. “It’s definitely a big challenge for the guards, and not just the guards, but we’re going to need the post help, too. There’s going to be times where she beats us.”
When it comes to facing a top-notch playmaker like Prahalis, UF has performed well on multiple occasions.
Florida held Hampton point guard Jericka Jenkins, who ranks second nationally with 7.2 assists per game and fifth with a 2.41 assist-to-turnover ratio, to one dime and seven giveaways in a 63-46 win on Nov. 22.
UF also held Southeastern Conference Player of the Year A’dia Mathies to two points on 1-of-7 shooting in a 57-52 loss to UK on Jan. 22.
“It seems like every team who has a best player, aside from the last Kentucky game, we usually do a good job on them and limiting their touches,” Jones said.
Even if the Gators manage to slow down Prahalis, they still have to worry about Hill, as well as the rest of the Buckeyes.
Prahalis and Hill are the first pair of 20-point scorers Florida will face this season, but OSU is also the highest-scoring team (75.1 points per game) UF has come across in 2011-12.
“We can’t just think that if we slow [Prahalis and Hill] down, the other players aren’t going to step up,” Jones said. “It’s still Ohio State. All of those girls were recruited there for a reason.”
Contact Joe Morgan at [email protected].