While Buckeye Nation was still celebrating the football team’s big win over Michigan, the #16 Ohio State women’s basketball team had to get back to work as they took on Wright State today. Center Ashley Adams returned to the starting lineup today despite practicing sparingly since a quadriceps injury forced her to miss OSU’s game against St. Francis on Tuesday. Adams wasn’t the only Buckeye returning from injury as freshman guard Cait Craft was finally cleared to play after suffering a concussion in practice before the season started.
Ohio State got off to a fast start as Raven Ferguson hit a three-pointer on the first trip down the floor, keying a 9 to 0 Buckeye run to start the game. After exchanging baskets with Wright State briefly, OSU went on another run of 9 unanswered to go up 22-4 just eight minutes into the game. The two teams would trade baskets for the rest of the half with the Raiders at one point pulling within 11. That didn’t last long and the two teams went into the locker room for halftime with the Buckeyes leading 42-25.
Ohio State picked up where they left off at the start of the second half, hitting a pair of baskets out of the gate to ignite a 20 to 8 run to put themselves up 62-35 with twelve minutes to go. The Buckeyes had been substituting liberally all game and their commanding lead let them continue to do so. Even with all the lineup changes OSU didn’t lose any momentum as they coasted to an 82-52 win.
Ohio State has done a great job of shooting all season and entered today’s game leading the Big Ten in both field goal and three-point percentage and their lead shouldn’t be in jeopardy after today’s impressive 48% shooting from the floor and 44% from beyond-the-arc. The Buckeyes have been good at getting to the free throw line all year, and in recent years, but tonight only got the charity stripe 8 times. OSU did hit all their free throws, a good sign as the team had really struggled to do so this season. Defensively the Buckeyes held Wright State to 31% shooting from both the floor and from three while forcing 22 turnovers which they turned into 29 points. OSU did a great job of taking care of the ball, only committing 13 turnovers while getting good ball movement as evidenced by their 20 assists.
Tayler Hill was once again the start of the game, scoring 17 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, 5 steals, and dishing out 3 assists. Hill didn’t shoot particularly well, going 5 of 14, but other than that this was one of the best games that she has ever played, contributing in pretty much every area imaginable and leading the team in points, rebounds, and steals. Amber Stokes was the only other Buckeye in double figures, scoring 13 points on a great 6 of 9 shooting performance. Stokes was heavily involved in the offense, tallying 6 assists, and is really becoming a growing offensive threat this season.
In her first game back from injury Ashley Adams scored 8 rebounds and got 2 blocks while only playing 17 minutes. Sophomore guard Raven Ferguson added 5 points but did a great job on the glass, grabbing 7 rebounds, the second most on the team for the night.
With Adams’ time limited, backup center Aleksandra Dobranic got some additional playing time off the bench and did a solid job, scoring 6 points and grabbing 3 rebounds. The OSU bench saw a lot of playing time with 13 Buckeyes seeing playing time and all of them scoring. Sophomore guard Maleeka Kynard had the best performance off the bench, scoring 8 points while hitting a pair of three pointers. In her first game as a Buckeye, Cait Craft hit her only shot, a three pointer, and grabbed a pair of rebounds.
This is the fourth win in a row for Ohio State and while none of those wins have come against impressive teams, the Buckeyes have looked solid in the wins and are using these games to get a lot of players involved and to experiment with lineups. For most of his time at OSU coach Jim Foster has tended to use a rather shallow bench, even in blowouts, and seeing the amount of players that are getting into games this season and the amount of playing time that the bench is getting is very encouraging and should lead to a team that is much deeper come Big Ten season and the tournament.
Nobody has really stepped up as a second star to replace Samantha Prahalis but the team as a whole is stepping up, with various players finding ways to contribute. Amber Stokes has really stepped on offense and is looking to score more which will take the defensive pressure off of Hill and others as in recent years opponents often didn’t really defend Stokes, not seeing her as a threat. While it would be great to see another star player on the floor with Hill, the more balanced production from the rest of the team is better in the long run as it is much easier for opponents to key on one or two star players.
There is still work to be done of course for this team, namely in the rebounding department. It is great to see guards getting involved in the rebounding game but it is not ideal to see a pair of guards as your top two rebounders in the game. The frontcourt still needs to work on getting better positioning and boxing out more. OSU won the rebounding battle today, 37-33, but against bigger, more physical Big Ten teams these rebounding issues will hurt the Buckeyes like it did last season.
Overall this season is off to a good start, the team is improving and while there are still issues, they are not as numerous or as troubling as they could be. After four rather easy games Ohio State sees a major step up in terms of opponent quality as they travel to Chapel Hill on Wednesday to take on North Carolina in the Big Ten-ACC challenge in a 7:00 pm game that will be on ESPN3.com.