After getting back to winning by defeating Wisconsin on Monday night, the Ohio State women’s basketball team headed to Urbana-Champaign tonight to face Illinois. Even though the Illini only had 2 conference wins coming into tonight, they are a much better team that their record suggests. They have been in almost every Big Ten game they’ve played and gave the Buckeyes a stiff test in Columbus a few weeks ago.
Ohio State got out to an early 10-6 lead with just less than four minutes having run off the clock but Illinois quickly showed that they are better than their record as they scored 12 straight to take an 18-10 lead with just over twelve minutes remaining in the half. The next two and half minutes saw the Buckeyes attack the inside and go on an 8 to 3 run to cut the Illini lead to 21-18. Illinois extended the lead back to 8 only to have OSU come right back and cut the lead to 26-24 with just under seven minutes left on the clock. The Illini would stretch the lead back to 8 but the Buckeyes cut into that a little right before the end of the half, sending the two teams in the intermission with Illinois holding a 34-29 lead.
Both teams shot pretty much equally well, 48% for OSU vs 46% for the Illini, but Illinois held a 15 to 9 advantage on the boards, including 6 offensive rebounds. The good shooting percentage did not apply to all of the Buckeyes as Samantha Prahalis struggled with her shot, going 1 of 7. Fortunately the Buckeye frontcourt picked up the slack as Ashley Adams scored 12 points and Darryce Moore came off the bench to add 6.
The two teams opened the second half by trading baskets and with fifteen and a half left in the game Illinois lead 40-35. OSU quickly put up 6 straight to take a 41-40 lead, their first since early in the first half, only to see the Illini hit a basket to take the lead right back. A Tayler Hill three-pointer and another Illinois basket tied the game at 44 before the Buckeyes turned it up a notch, going on a 12 to 0 run to take a 56-44 lead with just under 9 minutes remaining in the game. Illinois was not done, answering back with a 12 to 0 run of their own to knot the game at 56 with just under five minutes remaining. Each team hit a pair of free throws before Tayler Hill hit a three-pointer to give OSU back the lead, a Prahalis basket stretched that lead to 63-58 with just over two minutes remaining. Illinois came right back with 6 straight to take a 64-63 lead with 39 seconds left on the clock. After an OSU timeout, Tayler Hill hit a jumper to put the Buckeyes up 65-64 with twenty seconds remaining. That was too much time to leave on the clock though as Illinois came down and hit the game winner to hand the Buckeyes their third loss of the season, 66-65.
Ohio State shot well, hitting 50% from the floor including going 6 of 12 from beyond the arc. Tayler Hill led the team with 20 points and added 5 assists. Ashley Adams added 18 points in one of her best offensive performances ever. Adams also grabbed 8 boards, got 5 blocks, and contributed 4 assists. After struggling with her shot in the first half, Samantha Prahalis had a much better second half, scoring 17 points and adding 7 assists. Darryce Moore added 8 and Amber Stokes contributed the other 2 Buckeye points.
Despite their good shooting Ohio State was undone by their defense and their inability to take care of the ball. The Buckeyes turned the ball over 21 times as Illinois came up with 13 steals. Illinois turned these turnovers into 20 points. OSU forced 19 turnovers which was good but they allowed the Illini to shoot 44% from the floor.
Tonight’s loss was only the third of the season for Ohio State, several less that was expected before the season started, but it is their second in the last three games. All three of the Buckeye losses have come on the road and two of them have come to teams in the bottom half of the conference, Minnesota and Illinois. Tonight it looked like the Buckeyes would pull off another impressive comeback like they have several times this season but just when it seemed like they were in control they were undone by their own sloppy play. You can’t win a game when you commit 21 turnovers and a team with the experience at the guard position like this team has should not be committing anywhere near that many turnovers. The fact that the three losses this season have been for different reasons and that they have all come on the road suggest that the issues with this team are mental, mostly related to focus. It is possible that the strong start to the season made the team overconfident and complacent but at this point that has to be gone now. The Buckeyes have shown that they can play amazing basketball in stretches but they also go through some very bad stretches, even in games that they have won.
I had lamented after the last game about the need for players besides Hill and Prahalis to step up and contribute and it was good to see Adams answer that call but the rest of the team needs to follow suit. Tonight’s loss dropped Ohio State out of first place and raises many questions about this team’s ability to play on the road. The Buckeyes will get a chance to redeem themselves on Sunday as they host conference leading Purdue and how the team plays in that game will say a lot about whether they can learn from these losses and not waste an amazing start to the season. The game against the Boilermakers tips at 5:00pm and will be shown on ESPN2.