After suffering a disappointing upset loss at Illinois on Thursday where they had trouble with turnovers, the Buckeyes looked to get back on the winning track as they hosted 16th ranked and conference leading Purdue. Today was the annual breast cancer awareness day which has been re-branded from ‘Think Pink’ to ‘Play for Kay’ in honor of former North Carolina State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow who passed away in 2009 after her third re-occurrence of breast cancer. The big game and the important cause being supported today helped draw approximately 8,800 fans to the game, the largest crowd of the season.
The game opened exactly as expected for a matchup of two top 20 teams as Ohio State and Purdue went back and forth for the first 9 minutes of the game. Neither team could build more than a three point lead and with eleven minutes left in the half the Buckeyes lead 22-20. The Boilermakers defense had been harassing the Buckeyes all half and really clamped down at this point, keying an 11 to 2 run that game Purdue a 31-24 lead with just under six minutes remaining in the half. OSU finally got their offense going again but they couldn’t come up with defensive stops and Purdue went into halftime leading 37-31.
Ohio State shot 48% in the first half but the Purdue defense did a good job of keeping Samantha Prahalis and Tayler Hill under wraps, holding them to 5 and 3 points each, respectively. Conversely Purdue shot 51% and did a great job dominating the Buckeye defense in the paint thanks to their athleticism. The biggest problem for the Buckeyes though was a problem they have had most of the season, their inability to win the battle on the boards. The Boilermakers out-rebounded the Buckeyes 23 to 11 including 9 offensive boards which they turned into 8 second chance points.
The second half opened similar to the first with both teams trading baskets for the first few minutes, resulting in a 47-39 Purdue lead with sixteen and half remaining in the game. Ohio State managed to get a few defensive stops which triggered a 12 to 3 run which gave the Buckeyes a 51-50 lead with just over twelve left. After trading a few baskets, Purdue managed to open up a five point lead but OSU came right back with six straight to take a 62-61 lead. Purdue quickly regained the lead but Ohio State took it back with an 8 to 0 run to go ahead 71-65 with just over three minutes remaining. The Boilermakers were not done though as they cut the Buckeye lead to 73-71 with a minute left on the clock. OSU took a timeout on their next possession and after inbounding the ball; Prahalis found herself wide open and hit a huge three-pointer. A steal by the Buckeyes on the next possession put the game in their control and they used free throws to salt away an 80-71 win.
Samantha Prahalis led the Buckeyes with 26 points to go along with 5 assists and 3 steals. Amber Stokes was perhaps the MVP of the game as she really stepped up offensively in the first half to keep OSU in it. Stokes finished with 14 points and even hit a three, a shot that she almost never takes. Ashley Adams finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 assists, and a steal. Tayler Hill struggled with her shot tonight but finished with 12 points, 3 assists, and a pair of steals. After being very quiet in recent games, freshman forward Kalpana Beach scored 6 points, all coming in the first half when they were desperately needed.
For the game Ohio State shot 52% while Purdue shot 48%. The Buckeyes were out-rebounded 41 to 24 on the game but they cut the rebound discrepancy down a bit in the second half. OSU really needs to work on boxing out as they cannot keep giving the opposing team second chance opportunities. Turnovers proved to be instrumental in the Buckeye victory tonight. Both teams had 7 turnovers in the first half but Ohio State finished the game with only 11 total, while Purdue finished with 18. The Buckeyes turned those Boilermaker turnovers into 24 points.
After the first half I had little hope of an Ohio State victory as the Buckeye offense looked lost much of the time and Purdue was seemingly scoring at will on the inside. The second half reminded me of just how good this Buckeye team can be when they play to their potential. OSU’s defense really stepped up in the second half, forcing more turnovers and doing a better job defending the paint. Meanwhile, the Buckeye offense got things going, led by Samantha Prahalis who did a great job of attacking the basket and looking like she refused to lose. The Ohio State offense was helped out by the Boilermakers deciding to tackle three point shooters; Prahalis was fouled twice and Hill once on shots from beyond-the-arc.
While Prahalis still led the team in scoring, the most important aspect of this game was that other players beside Prahalis and Hill stepped up tonight. I called for this after the Illinois loss and the players responded, I’m sure it was because they read my article. Amber Stokes had one of her best offensive games and she shouldered the scoring load in the first half while Hill and Prahalis were struggling. Ashley Adams had a solid performance, hitting several nice shots, dishing out a few assists, and earning some important blocks on the defensive end. Hill and Prahalis can carry this team most of the time but they need other people to step up in big games and if the rest of the team does, this OSU squad can go far.
Purdue came into tonight’s game leading the Big Ten in defense, allowing approximately 56 points per game. Conversely, Ohio State led the Big Ten in offense, averaging 77 points per game, and the 80 points the scored on Purdue was the second most allowed by the Boilermakers this season. OSU is now 9-3 in the conference and are tied with Purdue for second place, a half-game behind Penn State. The Buckeyes continue their run at the conference title on Thursday when they host Indiana in the only game left this season that will not be on tv.