Ohio State (13-9, 4-6) entered tonight’s game against Purdue (16-8, 6-5) facing the very real possibility of not making the NCAA tournament. While tonight’s game was technically a home game, it was played at Nationwide Arena and considering how the season had gone so far, a change in venue may not be a bad thing.
Ohio State jumped to a quick 4-0 lead just over thirty seconds into the game but a Purdue layup and three-pointer gave them a 5-4 lead. The teams traded baskets and with 15 minutes remaining in the half the score was tied at 10. A five point run by Purdue and some poor shooting by the Buckeyes had the crowd starting to grow uncomfortable. 8 straight points by Ohio State gave them an 18-15 lead and helped to ease the crowd’s fears. The Boilermakers would not let the Buckeyes pull away and with just over seven minutes remaining in the half the game was tied at 22. A layup and three-pointer by Ohio State was followed by a three-pointer by Purdue to give OSU a 27-25 lead with just over six minutes on the clock. At this point the Buckeye defense clamped down and ignited 14 to 0 run. Purdue would not score again until hitting a layup with 11 seconds remaining in the half. The Buckeyes got the last laugh though and a Brittany Johnson three-pointer at the buzzer brought the crowd to its feet and sent Ohio State into the locker room up 44-27.
The second half opened with the two teams taking turns scoring until Ohio State put together a 15 to 4 run to extend their lead to 63-36 with thirteen and a half minutes remaining in the game. The next three minutes saw Purdue cut the lead to only 22 with a 9 to 4 run but Ohio State responded with a 10 to 2 run of their own to make the score 77-47 with just under eight minutes remaining in the game. At this point the game was well in-hand and while the Boilermakers would cut the Buckeye lead to 22 at one point, they never even remotely threatened for the rest of the game. When the final buzzer sounded the Buckeyes had snapped their three game loosing streak with a dominating 90-67 win over the Boilermakers.
Jantel Lavender led the Buckeyes with 21 points and all five starters scored in double figures as Tayler Hill and Brittany Johnson posted 17 points each, Samantha Prahalis notched 12, and freshman center Ashley Adams added 10. Freshman forward Martina Ellerbe added 8 points in only 10 minutes of action. Brittany Johnson was on fire from beyond the arc, hitting 5 of 6 from long range. Prahalis earned a double-double with 12 assists. Ohio State shot 47% from the floor including 40% from three-point range.
Despite allowing Purdue to shoot 41% from the floor, 47% from beyond the arc, the Ohio State defense was the star of this game as they forced 22 Purdue turnovers. The Buckeyes recorded 9 steals, led by 5 from Tayler Hill. OSU took much better care of the ball, recording 21 assists and only 9 turnovers.
Purdue has really struggled on the road this season, going 2-7, but this was still a huge win for Ohio State, both in terms of their fight to make the NCAA tournament and in terms of their confidence. The Buckeyes showed good energy and played very good defense which is something they have lacked much of this season. The large lead in the second half helped the younger players see more time on the floor as Foster rested his starters more than normal. On a personal note, I was thrilled to see Ohio State dominate like they did as there is no women’s basketball team that I hate more than Purdue; yes, I hate them more than Michigan.
Tonight’s game saw Ohio State playing more like the team everyone expected them to be but inconsistency has been the trademark of the team this season so the question remains as to whether tonight is an indication that they have turned the corner or if tonight was a one-off performance. The Buckeyes will get a chance to help answer that question as they visit Minnesota on Sunday. A win on Sunday keeps the Buckeyes in the hunt for a first day bye in the Big Ten tournament.