Yesterday the Ohio State men’s basketball team took care of business in the men’s Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Today the OSU women’s team got their turn as they hosted Florida State in the women’s Big Ten – ACC Challenge. The Seminoles started the year with high expectations but have had a disappointing season so far, despite this they were still a very dangerous team.
After the two teams traded baskets for the first four minutes of the game, Florida State scored 7 straight to open up an 11-4 lead. Ohio State responded with a six point run of their own to cut the lead to 11-10 with twelve minutes remaining in the half. The Seminoles fired right back with another 7 point run to extend the lead to 18-10. The two teams went back to trading baskets with the Buckeyes slowly chipping away at the lead. A Samantha Prahalis three-pointer tied the game at 31 with just over a minute remaining before halftime. Ohio State took the lead seconds later as Amber Stokes came up with a steal and took the ball to the basket for a layup. Neither team managed to score in the final minute of the half and the teams went into the locker room with the Buckeyes up 33-31.
Kalpana Beach and Samantha Prahalis put on a little show to help Ohio State score the first six points of the second half; Beach had two baskets while Prahalis had a basket and assisted on each of Beach’s. About a minute and a half into the second half the Buckeyes had opened up a 39-31 lead and had all the momentum. Florida State was not done though, and the two teams traded baskets for the next five minutes at which point Ohio State had a 48-40 lead with just over thirteen minutes remaining. At this point the Seminoles exploded on a 15 to 2 run that gave them a 55-50 lead with eight minutes remaining. Freshman guard Raven Ferguson and freshman forward Kalpana Beach teamed up over the next few minutes to halt the Florida State run and pull the Buckeyes back within a point, cutting the lead to 59-58 at the five and half minute mark. Florida State scored the next 6 points as the Buckeyes went cold for the next four minutes, missing four shots and committing two turnovers. With only a minute and a half remaining in the game the Seminoles led 65-58 and things were looking bad for Ohio State. The Buckeyes were not done though as Raven Ferguson hit a huge three-pointer. The Buckeyes had to foul at this point and Florida State hit both of their free throws. OSU came right back down the court and Tayler Hill hit a three to cut the Seminole lead to 67-64 with thirty seconds remaining. Ohio State sent Florida State to the line twice but they could only hit one free throw. Hill made them pay for that by hitting another shot from beyond-the-arc to make it a one point game, 68-67, with 11 seconds on the clock. Prahalis committed a quick foul and Florida State made their first free throw but missed the second. Beach came down with the rebound for OSU and got the ball to Hill who hit the game tying layup with two seconds left, forcing overtime with the score tied at 69.
Considering they had been down by seven with only a minute and a half remaining in the game, Ohio State was thrilled to have forced overtime. However their emotional high heading into the extra session was a bit muted by the fact that senior guard and the emotional leader of the team Samantha Prahalis had fouled out in the final seconds of regulation. Both teams struggled to make shots in overtime and the game was tied at 71 with two minutes remaining. A pair of free throws game Florida State a 73-71 lead. After a basket by each team, Ohio State got the chance to shoot a pair of free throws of their own but Tayler Hill hit only one of the two and with a minute remaining Florida State held a 75-74 lead. The Buckeyes forced a missed shot from the Seminoles and Ferguson pulled down the defensive board, getting the ball to Hill who made a layup on a beautiful drive to the basket that made it clear that she was not going to let Ohio State lose this game. Suddenly down by one, Florida State had a chance to retake the lead but three Buckeyes swarmed Seminole center Cierra Bravard, forcing a held ball call with the possession arrow pointing toward the scarlet and gray. Tayler Hill hit a pair of free throws on the resulting possession to give the Buckeyes a three point lead with thirteen seconds remaining. Florida State missed a wide open three pointer but the rebound went out-of-bounds off of the Buckeyes, giving the Seminoles one last chance to tie the game. They did not get that chance though as Ashley Adams intercepted the inbounds pass to seal the 78-75 victory for Ohio State. Bravard did not take the loss well and shoved Kalpana Beach after buzzer, leading to a confrontation between the two teams which had to be broken up by the officials.
Neither team shot well in the game, Ohio State was 38% from the floor while Florida State shot a similar 39%. The Buckeyes uncharacteristically struggled from the charity stripe, hitting only 9 out of 16 free throws. Fortunately Ohio State did better on the defensive end, in addition to forcing the Seminoles into a poor shooting night, the Buckeyes forced 22 turnovers, 13 in the form of steals, and blocked 5 shots.
Tayler Hill came up big down the stretch, putting the team on her back as she led the way in scoring, putting up 31 points while also grabbing 7 rebounds and coming up with 6 steals. She was joined in the double digits by Ashley Adams who had 13 points and by Kalpana Beach and Samantha Prahalis who had 11 points each. Adams finished with a double-double as she grabbed 14 rebounds, she also had 3 blocks. Prahalis struggled with her shooting but helped make up for it by dishing out 11 assists and getting a block. Beach also had a block as well as 8 rebounds. Guard Amber Stokes may have only had 2 points but her tenacious defense was absolutely crucial for the Buckeyes who needed every one of her 5 steals. Freshman guard Raven Ferguson added 8 points; all coming at absolutely crucial moments to halt Florida State runs late in the game.
This was a very exciting game and Ohio State had a lead early in the second half only to see it slip away. Despite being the youngest overall team in the Big Ten, Ohio State did not fold while facing the enormous pressure of having lost a lead and having to face a 7 point deficit with only 90 seconds remaining on the clock. In fact the youth of the team came up big at that point as freshman Raven Ferguson hit a three to start the Buckeye rally; Ferguson and fellow freshman Kalpana Beach had already hit several crucial baskets earlier in the game. The Buckeyes overcame their youth and showed an incredible amount of poise and confidence in a crucial situation. This is a very welcome sight as for most of Foster’s tenure as the coach; Ohio State had a bad habit of stiffening up in high pressure situations, leading to frustrating losses.
Three days after Samantha Prahalis had a career high in scoring against LSU, Tayler Hill decided it was her turn and her 31 points tonight market a new career high for the junior guard. This demonstrates what are becoming my favorite aspects of this team, the leadership from the two veteran guards and the ability for different players to step up on any given night. The second aspect was also demonstrated by Ashley Adams and Amber Stokes, both of who had disappointing games against LSU but who stepped up big tonight. The freshmen are just as likely to be the ones who step up as Raven Ferguson was key with her shots from beyond-the-arc and Kalpana Beach continued her impressive play.
Ohio State is now 6-0 and half of those wins have not been pretty as Temple, LSU, and Florida State challenged the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes faced those challenges and found ways to come away with the win. This team is quickly becoming battle tested and that is going to pay off down the road during the always challenging Big Ten season and come tournament time. The challenges are not over for Ohio State as the Buckeyes head to Oklahoma for their next game, facing the 18th ranked Sooners on Sunday in a game that will be televised on ESPN3.com at 3:00pm.