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Packer scores 32 as Buckeyes beats Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Jessica Davenport was getting banged around
under the basket in a typically physical game against Minnesota.
Marscilla Packer's performance was Ohio State's perfect remedy to
the rough stuff.

Packer scored a career-high 32 points, going 8-for-10 from
3-point range to lead the Buckeyes (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) to a 76-55 victory
over the Gophers (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) on Thursday night.

"It just happened," Packer said, laughing bashfully. "I don't
know. Just playing."

Proving Ohio State (22-2, 12-1 Big Ten) has much more than just
an All-America center, Packer made Minnesota pay for leaving her
open on the perimeter. She had 10 of her team's first 14 points,
setting the tone for the Buckeyes' 13th consecutive win and
matching the women's single-game school record for 3-pointers made.

Most importantly, Ohio State stayed even with Purdue in the
conference race.

"I think we just flowed tonight in a lot of different ways,"
said Davenport, who had 12 points -- seven under her average -- and
eight blocks.

A sophomore, Packer leads the Big Ten in 3-point shooting at a
success rate of nearly 50 percent. So all those swishes weren't
really a surprise. Still, it was disheartening for the Gophers to
have kept the conference's leading scorer down -- only to watch
someone else beat them so badly.

"When you have her at those numbers ... you think you'd win a
basketball game," coach Pam Borton said.

April Calhoun, who guarded Packer most of the first half, was
benched for Brittney Davis to start the second half. Borton lauded
Davis and fellow sophomore Natasha Williams, who did most of the
work on Davenport and finished with 14 points, for their defense.
And the team's effort was more complete than in recent losses to
Michigan State and Purdue.

But the Gophers (17-7, 9-4) suffered their third straight
decisive defeat against the conference's elite -- after losing to
the Spartans and Boilermakers by a combined 147-92 in their last
two games. They had a chance at their first Big Ten title, but now
that's a near-impossible feat.

"What I learned about this team, and what we all learned about
this team, is we're not as good as we need to be right now,"
Borton said.

Ohio State, which tied Michigan State for last season's
regular-season title, has the Spartans and Purdue at home for their
next two opponents. The Buckeyes' last defeat was to the
Boilermakers, 61-59 on New Year's Day. Michigan State moved into
third, a half-game ahead of the Gophers.

Jamie Broback led Minnesota with 17 points, which brought some
energy to the beginning of the second half and cut the deficit to
35-29 on a pair of free throws by Broback. But Packer answered with
a 3-pointer on the other end, and the Gophers -- who fell to 2-6
against ranked teams this season -- never got closer.

"She's a very talented player," Davis said. "She's kind of
hard to guard, because she can shoot from anywhere and she has a
very quick release ... It happens. You just learn from it."

Though the Buckeyes' strength is with Davenport around the
basket, they've got plenty of capable guards. With Packer hitting
from the outside, Kim Wilburn and Ashley Allen pushed the pace and
applied pesky backcourt pressure in the first half -- wearing the
Gophers out.

Broback, her shooting arm wrapped up to protect a bruised right
elbow suffered Sunday against Purdue, stole the ball from Tamarah
Riley near the top of the key and took it the other way for a
contested layup. The subsequent foul shot brought Minnesota within
19-18 with 8:05 left before halftime.

But after Borton made a wholesale substitution to give her
regulars a rest, Ohio State went on a finger-snap 7-0 run and was
right back in control.

Though Davenport only took three shots and was limited to two
points before the half, she gave the Gophers something to think
about at the buzzer with a forceful, audible block of Kelly
Roysland's shot in the lane as the Buckeyes took a 35-25 lead
downstairs to the locker room.

Minnesota went just 2-for-18 from 3-point range, and Ohio State
coach Jim Foster was predictably pleased with his team's perimeter
defense -- especially by Packer.

"I think if you were going to be surprised at something, it was
the amount of time she spent in a defensive stance," Foster said,
smirking. "That's new."