After overcoming a tough test on Sunday against an Illinois team that was winless in the conference at the time, the Illini got their first Big Ten win of the year when they beat MSU tonight, Ohio State traveled to Bloomington to face the only other team who came into tonight without a conference win. The Buckeyes last visited Bloomington two years ago and were ranked #6 in the country at the time but that did not stop the Hoosiers from pulling off the upset. Tonight the #9 Buckeyes looked to do a better job.
Indiana jumped out to a quick 7-2 and flashbacks to that game two years ago, or the Illinois-MSU game earlier tonight, immediately came to mind. Both teams struggled to score but the Hoosiers managed to slowly extend their lead, going up 20-12 with six and half minutes remaining in the half. After looking a step slow and out of rhythm to start the game, the Buckeyes finally showed a bit of a spark, going on an 8 to 2 run to cut the Indiana lead to 22-20 with two minutes on the clock. An Indiana basket followed by an empty OSU possession halted the run but a Hoosier turnover on the ensuing possession led to open three-pointer from the corner by freshman guard Raven Ferguson which cut the lead to 24-23. Each team would hit one more basket in the half and the two teams headed into the locker room with Indiana leading 26-25.
After struggling on the boards all season, the Buckeyes hit a low in that department in the first half, getting outrebounded by the Hoosiers 29 to 15. This led to lots of second chance for Indiana while Ohio State was mostly one-and-done when they had the ball. OSU’s lack of energy to start the game led to them settling for contested jump shots and overall the Buckeyes only shot 34% from the floor in the half. Most alarming though was the fact that Tayler Hill, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, was held scoreless for the half.
Ohio State came out to start the second half with a lot more energy that they had to start to game, almost playing a bit too fast and out-of-control. Despite making a few mistakes due to how fast they were playing, the Buckeyes still started the second half with 13 straight points to take a 38-26 lead with just under sixteen minutes remaining in the game. Indiana’s offense finally emerged from the locker room but they still couldn’t keep up with Ohio State who slowly stretched their lead to 69-45 with three minutes left in the game. From there the Buckeyes just coasted to a 73-55 victory.
Ohio State shot much better in the second half, finishing the game shooting 46% from the field, 40% from beyond the arc. Even though they were still out-rebounded by the Hoosiers 52 to 40, the Buckeyes did a much better job after the break, winning the battle in the second half 25 to 23. The Buckeye defense did a great job, coming up with 12 steals and 10 blocks.
Samantha Prahalis led the way for the Buckeyes with 18 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals. After being held scoreless in the first half, Tayler Hill exploded in the second half to finish with 18 points; she also had 4 steals. Ashley Adams finished with a double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Adams also played great defense as she came up with 5 blocks. In total, 10 different Buckeyes scored and 12 saw playing time.
This game was more like two completely separate games. Ohio State came out flat, playing a step slow and out of rhythm. They couldn’t hit shots, they couldn’t hit rebounds, and they were even slow in going after loose balls. They simply did not look like they were ready to play, like they expected to get the victory just because they showed up. Then late in the first half things changed, the team realized they were in trouble and they stepped up their energy, putting together a run that cut the deficit to one heading into the break. Their energy increased even more to start the second half and the team began playing like they were expected to. They showed more hustle, they worked to find better shots, and they attacked from all angles. The result was an easy victory that was no longer in doubt about halfway through the second half.
Tonight’s game brings both good and bad signs. The biggest concern that is raised concerns how the game began. The Buckeyes have put together an amazing record and earned a top 10 ranking but they must always remember that the record and the ranking mean nothing right now, they have to come to play every game like it is the national title game because any team they face from here on out can beat them if they are not ready to play with a full effort. The other big concern is about rebounding and has been there all season. This team needs to do a much better job of boxing out and grabbing rebounds. Opponents are getting way too many rebounds, especially offensive rebounds and are turning those into second chance points which are going to prove costly at some point.
There were positives that came out of this game though. The team showed that even they get off to a bad start that they do not get down on themselves, they do not give up; instead they dig deep and find new energy, new motivation. The Buckeyes did a phenomenal job of that tonight, finding a new energy source and playing a great last 25 minutes to turn a potential upset into an easy victory. This team is amazingly talented and when they are on, they may be virtually unstoppable. They also continue to demonstrate an impressive toughness, they don’t fold under pressure, instead they keep on fighting.
Tonight’s victory improves Ohio State’s record to 20-1 and gives them their 10th straight 20-win season. On Sunday the Buckeyes travel to Minnesota where Tayler Hill will get to play in front of a hometown crowd; Hill has apparently already claimed all 52 team tickets and is looking for more, a good sign that there should be some nice Buckeye support in what is always a tough place to play. That game will tip at 1:00pm and will be broadcast on BTN.