The Ohio State women’s basketball team started of 2012 with the worst scheduled Big Ten home opener this afternoon as they hosted Iowa in a game that overlapped with the Gator Bowl. Fortunately a decent sized crowd showed up to support the team as they looked to continue the best start in program history.
The two teams opened the game going back and forth but Iowa then put together an early run of six straight to open a 9-4 lead. Ohio State responded and trimmed the Iowa lead to 11-8 but the Hawkeyes quickly re-extended the lead to 22-12 with thirteen minutes remaining in the half. Iowa was able to build the double-digit lead thanks to poor perimeter defense by the Buckeyes allowing them open looks. The Buckeyes added to their early problems by doing a poor job of rebounding on both ends of the floor. The Hawkeye offense began to cool off a bit at this point but so did the Buckeye offense and Iowa managed to extend its lead to 37-22 with five and half minutes to go in the half. With the game looking like it may get away from them, Ohio State found a spark and used some nice three-point shooting from Tayler Hill and Samantha Prahalis to close the half on a 17 to 3 run. While Ohio State still went into the half down 40-39, their first halftime deficit of the season, the late run got them right back into the game and got the crowd going.
Ohio State went into the break with a lot of momentum and they kept up that momentum to open the second half, starting the second stanza with an impressive 18 to 4 run to take a 57-44 lead with thirteen and a half minutes remaining in the game. Iowa woke up a bit and cut the OSU lead to single digits with five straight points but then the Buckeyes went on a 7 to 2 run to stretch the lead to 64-51 with eleven minutes remaining. At this point the two teams began trading baskets for the next five minutes with Ohio State slowly stretching their lead to 75-59 with just over six minutes remaining in the game. Iowa was not done though, going on an 12 to 4 run to get within single digits, 79-71, with a minute and a half to go. An offensive rebound on the next OSU possession ran the clock to under a minute to go and forced the Hawkeyes to start fouling. Ohio State calmly knocked down the late foul shots as they closed out an 84-71 victory.
Samantha Prahalis scored a season high 30 points to lead all scorers; she also dished out 7 assists and grabbed 5 rebounds. Prahalis’s presence was also felt on the defensive end as she tallied four steals. Tayler Hill was the only other Buckeye in double-figures, scoring 28 points while also grabbing 4 rebounds and coming up with a block. Ashley Adams added 8 points while grabbing a team high 6 rebounds and getting a block and a steal. Amber Stokes added 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals.
Despite the deficit that Ohio State faced early in the game, Foster freely used his bench as a total of 10 Buckeyes played and 7 scored. Forward Martina Ellerbe got the most playing time of her career, coming off the bench for 29 minutes and scoring two points and grabbing 4 rebounds. Sophomore Darryce Moore and freshman Raven Ferguson each came off the bench to score 5 points.
One unfortunate surprise today was the struggles by freshman forward Kalpana Beach after being recognized by the BTN announcers before the game started for her great play so far this season. Beach was held scoreless and only contributed one rebound and a block while only seeing 11 minutes of playing time. Most of Beach’s minutes went to Martina Ellerbe who seemed to do a better job on defense. Hopefully this was just an off day for the freshman and she will be back to her usual level in the next one.
There were several key reasons for the complete turnaround in this game and they all sort of go hand-in-hand. The Hawkeye defense frustrated the Buckeyes early but OSU started to move better up high to find open looks and when they began knocking down three-pointers, hitting an amazing 10 of 15 from behind the arc, that opened up the interior defense and allowed them to attack the basket. Iowa had gotten many of their early points in transition as Ohio State had struggled to matchup properly while coming down the floor. The improvement in OSU’s shooting cut down on these transition opportunities. The Hawkeyes got even fewer opportunities in transition as the Buckeyes began to do a better job of rebounding; while they still struggled to box out effectively, OSU showed much more energy in fighting for rebounds in the second half. The second half saw the Buckeyes also take much better care of the ball, committing only 3 turnovers after committing 7 in the first half.
The scheduling of today’s game such that it overlapped with the Gator Bowl most likely cut into the viewing audience for the game and the players opened the game looking like they too would rather be watching the bowl game as they fell behind by 15 and looked to be on the verge of losing control of the game. With their backs against the wall, the Buckeyes refused to fold and came out swinging, making adjustments on both sides of the ball. OSU has struggled in the first have several times this season, though none more than in this one, but every time they have managed to dig deep, make adjustments, and come away with the win. This team has shown far more toughness than we have seen from previous Buckeye teams and is looking like they have the chance to be something special. The offense is can be explosive and while the defense play has been streaky, when the team focuses they can come up with steals in bunches. The Buckeyes return to action on Saturday when they travel to Ann Arbor to seek revenge after being swept by Michigan last season. The game tips at 5:00pm and will be broadcast on BTN.