The Ohio State women’s basketball team opened their season today against Tennessee State. While the Tigers were not expected to present much of a challenge, having lost their season opener to Cleveland State, the Buckeyes were happy to finally get the chance to play against someone in a different color uniform. The OSU starting lineup featured guards Samantha Prahalis, Tayler Hill, and Amber Stokes along with freshman forward Kalpana Beach, and center Ashley Adams.
Tennessee State got won the tip and got a quick three-pointer to take the first lead of the game. Ohio State came right back with a basket by center Ashley Adams and the Buckeyes took the lead on their next possession as Adams pulled down an offensive rebound and hit a driving Samantha Prahalis with a nice pass. Prahalis missed the layup but got fouled and hit her free throws to put OSU ahead and the Buckeyes did not look back. Freshman forward Kalpana Beach quickly showed why Foster put her in the starting lineup as she recorded an assist on the first Buckeye basket, knocking down a couple baskets of her own, playing some tough defense, and fighting for loose balls. The Tigers eventually snapped the OSU streak of a 11 straight points with a two point basket but at that point the damage was done. Ohio State responded by putting together another run of 12 points to stretch the lead before Tennessee State hit a three-pointer to make the score 23-8 in favor of the Buckeyes halfway through the first half. While building their quick lead OSU did a great job of taking care of the ball, going just over nine minutes before their first turnover while forcing several turnovers by the Tigers in that same stretch. The Buckeyes continued to pour it on and OSU headed into the break leading 48-21.
The first half showcased the strengths of this young Ohio State team, athleticism and defensive intensity. The Buckeyes forced 13 turnovers and held Tennessee State to 29% shooting. Meanwhile OSU only committed 4 turnovers while shooting 53% from the floor. Freshman Kalpana Beach tallied 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks, plus an assist and a steal to show that she deserves her starting spot. Freshman guard Raven Ferguson showed that Beach was not going to be the only newcomer to have an impact as she scored 10 points in the opening stanza, tying Samantha Prahalis for the team high at intermission, and pulled down 4 rebounds. Foster used his bench early, playing 11 different Buckeyes in the first half, 10 of which scored. Despite jumping out to a quick lead, OSU did not let up, keeping up their defensive pressure on the visiting Tigers, something that was rarely the case with last year’s squad.
The large halftime lead meant that Ohio State was never threatened in the second half. This was a good thing as the Buckeyes did not display the same defensive intensity as they did before the break; this likely can be attributed to the game being well in hand. OSU did not block out effectively on the defensive end during the second half, allowing Tennessee State numerous second chance opportunities. The Buckeyes also were a bit sloppy with the ball, committing 14 turnovers after the break. A scary moment occurred midway through the second half as Samantha Prahalis went down grabbing her leg; to the relief of all in attendance the injury seemed to be a cramp and Sam walked off the court. When the final buzzer sounded, Ohio State had notched a 78-51 victory to open the 2011-2012 season.
Despite their lapse in defensive intensity in the second half, Ohio State still put together a solid defensive performance, forcing 23 turnovers and holding Tennessee State to 31% shooting. The biggest concern about the Buckeye defense is their perimeter defense as Tennesse State’s Jasmin Shuler hit 6 of 8 three-pointers. OSU will have to do a better job defending shooters outside going forward as the Big Ten features several teams with skilled long-range shooters.
On the offensive end Ohio State shot 48% from the floor. This season saw the women’s three-point line moved back to the same distance as the men’s; the impact of this change is not expected to be much but we will see as the year goes along. OSU only shot 27% from beyond the arc, continuing their struggles from long range that we saw last year. The Buckeyes won the rebounding battle 39-29.
The Buckeyes were lead in scoring by Samantha Prahalis and Tayler Hill who each notched 17 points. Prahalis added 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and forced 2 steals while Hill grabbed 2 rebounds and had 4 steals. Center Ashley Adams, freshman forward Kalpana Beach, and freshman forward Raven Ferguson each put up 10 points. Adams pulled down 5 rebounds and had an impressive 6 blocks while tallying 3 assists which is always great to see from a center. Beach added 6 boards and 2 blocks while Ferguson grabbed 8 rebounds.
The easy win allowed Foster to go to his bench extensively, 12 different players saw action with 10 of them notching and all 12 getting some entry on the stat sheet in addition to minutes played. With such a young team it is nice to see OSU going to the bench early and often in these games, allowing the younger players to get experience. Already freshmen Kalpana Beach and Raven Ferguson have shown that they are adjusting to the college game and will be major contributors this season.
Next up for Ohio State is a home game against Temple on Friday. The Owl made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament last year and will present a bigger challenge for the Buckeyes. OSU showed in the first half just how good they can be this year as they looked crisp, took care of the ball, and harassed the opponent while playing with good defensive intensity. They let their foot off the gas a bit in the second half and hopefully that was just a product of having a large lead. This Buckeye team already looks more athletic that previous versions and the freshmen are already contributing, always a good sign.