May 4, 2012
Advancing Seven to the Dance
For the first time in Big Ten history, seven conference teams were selected to the 2012 NCAA Championship. Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue represented the conference in the tournament, giving the Big Ten seven NCAA-bound squads, one more than the previous record of six, which was set in 1996, 2002, 2003 and 2004. The seven selected squads tied for the second-highest total in the country this year, behind only eight teams from the Big East and the SEC. Penn State was the final conference team remaining in the field, advancing to the second weekend of play, where it fell to Final Four participant Connecticut in the regional semifinals.
Minnesota Comes Away With a Title
Minnesota also took part in postseason competition, winning all four of its games in the Women’s Basketball Invitational en route to the tournament championship. The first Big Ten team to participate in the WBI, the Gophers earned a No. 2 seed in the field and played four straight games on their home court to win the crown. Minnesota’s Kiara Buford was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, while Rachel Banham joined Buford on the All-Tournament team.
Earning Postseason Accolades
Five Big Ten players ended the season under All-America consideration by one or more affiliations. Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis was selected to two postseason teams, earning the nod to the USBWA All-America squad and Associated Press second team. Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper, Ohio State’s Tayler Hill and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas each earned honorable mention All-America honors from the AP. In addition, Hill, Hooper, Prahalis and Penn State’s Alex Bentley were finalists for the WBCA All-America team.
Penn State Takes Home Regular Season Crown
Purdue Wins Tournament Title
After defeating Minnesota in its regular-season finale, Penn State secured sole possession of the Big Ten Championship, the Lady Lions’ first outright title since the 2003-04 season. It marks the sixth Big Ten title in Penn State history, as the Lady Lions also won titles in 1994, 1995, 2000 and 2003, and the first under fourth-year head coach Coquese Washington. Penn State finished the campaign with a 13-3 mark in Big Ten play.
For the eighth time in the 18-year history of the Big Ten Tournament, Purdue was crowned the tournament champion. The Boilermakers knocked off Nebraska in double-overtime, 74-70, in the championship game, marking the program’s first tournament title since 2008. Purdue improved its all-time record in the postseason event to a conference-best 34-10. Led by tournament Most Outstanding Player Brittany Rayburn, Purdue defeated Michigan State in the quarterfinals, before knocking off Penn State in the semifinal round.
Piling Up the Wins
For only the third time in Big Ten history, six conference teams reached the 20-wins mark. Penn State finished as the conference leader in wins with 26 victories, marking the 12th time the Lady Lions won 20 or more games as a member of the Big Ten. Ohio State and Purdue finished their seasons with 25 victories. It is the ninth-consecutive campaign of 20-plus wins for Ohio State, and the sixth time in the last eight seasons with 25 or more triumphs. The Boilermaker put together their 20th season of 20 or more wins in the last 25 years. First-year member Nebraska notched its fourth 20-win season in the last six years after posting 24 triumphs this year. Michigan and Michigan State each recorded 20 wins this season, the second time in three years the Wolverines accomplished the feat and the eighth straight season the Spartans reached 20 wins.
Final Top 25
Four conference teams received votes in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, including Penn State, which finished among the top 10 to end the year. The Lady Lions, who won the Big Ten Championship and advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament, finished the year ranked ninth in the nation. Big Ten Tournament Champion Purdue appeared at No. 18, while Ohio State checked in at No. 22. Nebraska finished as the first team receiving votes outside the top 25.
Conference Stat Champions
The Big Ten crowned its 2011-12 stat champions in conference games following the conclusion of the Big Ten season. Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis won the Big Ten scoring title with an average of 22.5 points per game, marking the third time in four years a Buckeye led the conference in the category. Her 22.5 points per game average is the highest since Penn State’s Kelly Mazzante averaged 25.1 points per game in the 2001-02 season. Prahalis also finished as the conference leader in assists per game, averaging 5.9 per outing to become the first player in conference history to lead the Big Ten in assists four years in a row. Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper emerged as the Big Ten’s leading rebounder, finishing with an average of 9.6 boards per contest.
Assist to the Record
Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis became the Big Ten’s all-time assists leader during her senior season, becoming the first conference standout to surpass 900 career assists. Just the second player in NCAA history to score more than 2,000 points and record 900 assists, Prahalis finished her career with 901 helpers, including a single-season record 289 in 2009-10. This season, she posted 194 assists to pass the former mark of 892 held by Northwestern’s Nancy Kennelly.
Final National Stat Rankings
Several Big Ten standouts finished the season among the top 25 of the nation’s statistical leaders, according to the final stats released by the NCAA. Three Big Ten players finished in the top 25 in scoring, with Ohio State’s Tayler Hill 13th at 20.4 points, teammate Samantha Prahalis 17th at 19.8 points, and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas appearing at No. 20 at 19.5 points per game, while Prahalis also finished 10th in the country in assists at 6.3 per game. Michigan’s Jenny Ryan and Penn State’s Alex Bentley finished among the nation’s steals leaders, with Ryan 18th at 3.06 and Bentley 21st at 2.97 per outing, and Ryan was fourth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.49). Hill and Lucas finished in the top 10 nationally in three-point field goal percentage, as Hill was third at 41.8 percent and Lucas finished eighth at 41.0 percent. In addition, Iowa’s Morgan Johnson was seventh in field goal percentage at 54.9 percent and Ohio State’s Ashley Adams was eighth in the nation with 3.0 blocks per game.
On to the Next Level
Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis became the 14th Big Ten player in history selected in the first round of the WNBA Draft when she was drafted sixth overall by the Phoenix Mercury. She became the 69th Big Ten player chosen in the 16-year history of the WNBA Draft. Prahalis was named Big Ten Player of the Year in 2012 after leading the conference in assists and scoring during the Big Ten season. The Commack, N.Y., native also set the Big Ten record for most assists in a career with 901, becoming the first player in Big Ten history to finish with more than 900 assists. She is also one of only two players in NCAA history to record 2,000 points and 900 assists in a career.