After hanging on for a close win last Friday over Temple, Ohio State climbed to 18/19th in the country. As most college students are preparing for a short week and then a relaxing Thanksgiving vacation with their family, the Buckeyes are preparing for a hectic week that features three games in a six day stretch. The Buckeyes will have practices on Wednesday and Thursday morning before dashing off to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner. The team reports back for a game against Stony Brook on Friday and then a showdown on Sunday against 20/23rd ranked LSU.
OSU kicked off their busy week with tonight’s game against Howard which was expected to be much easier than the Buckeye’s last matchup. Ohio State scored the first ten points of the game and built a 16-4 lead within six minutes to make those expectations seem correct. However the Bison were not content to merely collect a paycheck and go home, instead they tightened their interior defense and upped the pressure. This proved to be successful, forcing Ohio State into 5 turnovers over a nine minute stretch. The turnovers helped Howard get their offense going and they went on a gradual 20 to 11 run to cut the Ohio State lead to 27-24 with just under five minutes remaining in the half. The Buckeyes responded, closing the half with a 10 to 4 run to head into the locker room with a 37-28 lead.
Ohio State shot an impressive 61.5% from the floor in the opening half, going an incredible 13 of 16 from inside the arc. Howard shot only 31% for the half but kept it close thanks to forcing turnovers.
The second half opened with the two teams trading baskets and Ohio State held a 44-34 three minutes into the half. At that point the Buckeyes got things clicking again, going on a 17-6 run over the next eleven minutes to take a 61-40 lead with six minutes remaining in the game. The Bison could not overcome the improved OSU play and the Buckeyes coasted the rest of the way to a 73-50 win.
Tayler Hill led the Buckeyes with 18 points. Amber Stokes and Samantha Prahalis added 9 and 8 points, respectively, while freshmen Raven Ferguson and Kalpana Beach each scored 6 points. Beach was also a contributor on the glass, pulling down 12 rebounds. All thirteen Buckeyes saw playing time and 10 of them scored. The breakout performance of the day came from sophomore Darryce Moore who had a career high 15 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Moore showed signs of growing to reach her potential last game when she had an impressive rebounding performance against Temple. In this game she took another step and now looks like she is a legitimate threat on the inside that opponents are going to have to take into account in their game plan.
Ohio State committed 16 turnovers on the game, most of them coming in the first half. Despite the turnovers, the Buckeyes moved the ball well, tallying 21 assists. Prahalis led the way with 7 assists and center Ashley Adams was close behind with 6. Adams continues to impress with her ability to pass the ball from post; she is probably the best passing center OSU has ever had. Her ability to find open teammates for easy baskets combined with her size makes her very hard to defend. If she improves her footwork she may became virtually impossible to defend. For the game Ohio State shot 48% from the floor but only 33% from behind the arc; the process of finding someone to replace Brittney Johnson’s three-point shooting ability is still ongoing though Tayler Hill went 3 of 8 today from long range.
The Buckeye defense did a good job keeping Howard from finding easy baskets, the Bison were held to 27.5% shooting from the floor and 21% from beyond the arc. Ohio State also won the rebound battle 48-38.
It seemed like in the first half Ohio State may have underestimated their opponent and they did not look prepared for Howard’s defensive pressure and the result was too many turnovers that let the Bison stay in the game. The Buckeyes rallied in the face of adversity and played a good second half to put the game away. The most impressive aspect of the game, and this season so far, is the continued development of the younger players on the team. Darryce Moore obviously stole the show in this one, using her size advantage to get good looks at the basket. Moore was not alone though, Kalpana Beach and Raven Ferguson continue to be major contributors despite being freshmen. Ashley Adams has impressed everyone with her passing ability; you have to love when centers are contributing in areas beyond the traditional scoring and rebounding.
This is still a young team and they are a work in progress, as was shown by the start of this game and the lack of focus and energy. The team made adjustments though and pulled off a comfortable win. This week with its three games in six days will be a great learning experience for the team as they have to adjust to quick turnarounds between games and having only a limited amount of time to prepare for an opponent. In fact this week mirrors what the Buckeyes will have to go to come NCAA tournament time and thus will be a valuable experience for the younger players.