After a week off to finish up final exams, the 20th ranked Ohio State women’s basketball team headed west for a road trip that would see them play a pair of games in the state of Washington. First up for the Buckeyes was Washington State, in what would be only the second official road game of the season for OSU.
The game got off to a defensive start as both teams came up with some steals but couldn’t generate points off of them, resulting in the game being tied 4-4 at the first television timeout. Washington State came out of that break motivate and on fire, scoring 7 straight points in less than a minute. This seemed to wake up Ohio State and the Buckeyes put together a 10 to 2 run of their own to take a 14-13 lead on a pair of free throws by Tayler Hill with eight minutes remaining in the half. The Cougars would retake the lead a minute later and the two teams would trade baskets for the rest of the half, with Washington State scoring the final four points before the break to go into the locker room up 28-23.
Ohio State came out of the intermission strong, opening the second half with an 8 to 2 run to take a 31-30 lead just three minutes into the second period. Washington State quickly retook the lead but the Buckeyes took it right back and opened up their largest lead of the game, 36-32, with fifteen minutes remaining. Just as things appeared to going OSU’s way, the Cougars responded with a 10-1 run to take a 42-37 lead just two minutes later. The two teams traded baskets for a few minutes with WSU slowing extending their lead to 9, 56-47, with four minutes remaining. Tayler Hill had missed a good chunk of the second half due to foul trouble and her absence had been felt. Hill immediately made an impact upon returning to the game, scoring Ohio State’s next five points and helping the Buckeyes make it a one possession game, 58-55, with just under a minute to play. The Cougars missed a shot on their next possession but pulled down the offensive board and OSU was forced to foul. Washington State hit four free throws down the stretch and OSU missed on several three pointers as the Cougars pulled off the 62-56 upset.
This was one of the worst shooting performances of the season for Ohio State; the Buckeyes had been shooting close to 50% in most games but only shot 35.7% from the floor today, going an atrocious 6% from three point range. OSU struggled to move the ball well, dishing out 5 assists while committing 21 turnovers. Meanwhile, Washington State hit 40% from the floor and scored 16 points off of Buckeye turnovers.
Tayler Hill led the Buckeyes with 14 points but had probably the worst performance of her career as she hit on 3-17 shots, missing all nine of her three pointers. Hill pulled down 5 rebounds and had a steal but committed a very costly 7 turnovers. Ashley Adams and Amber Stokes each had 12 points with Adams recording a double-double thanks to 11 rebounds.
Washington State came into this game with a 2-5 record and there is a lot of blame to go around in this loss. The biggest killer for OSU was the turnovers; you cannot commit 21 turnovers and win a game. The Buckeye offense is at its best when it is moving and reversing the ball a lot, OSU was sloppy today and didn’t take care of the basketball which kept their offense from getting in gear. Ohio State also did a poor job of adjusting in the game, they were struggling with their outside shooting but they waited a long time to start going inside and even when they started to, they didn’t stick with it enough. Coach Foster has often been criticized as not being a very good in game coach and the lack of adjustments in today’s game does not help his defense against those charges.
Blame also has to be placed on the players. Tayler Hill is a senior and a leader on this team and she normally is a great shooter; she has had a couple rough games this season but this was by far the worst. Bad shooting games will happen and great players will find ways to adjust and still contribute but Hill didn’t do a good job of that today. Her outside shot wasn’t falling and instead of attacking inside more, she kept shooting, finishing by going 0 of 9 from outside the arc. Defensively the interior woes continued for the Buckeyes as on several occasions, including in some key late game situations, the OSU defenders were caught flat footed and out of position as Washington State attacked the basket.
The one positive from this loss is that Ohio State battled back late and had a chance to win, but couldn’t get over the hump. While more players than normal are seeing the floor for OSU this season, the team still continues the Foster tradition of looking to its star player to lead them and when she struggles, the rest of the team sort of looks lost. Players need to realize that when the star struggles, they need to step up, not just wait for the star to come out of their funk. This team has talent and compared to most years where Foster uses a very short bench, that talent is getting chance on the floor; 11 Buckeyes played today and 7 of them scored. This will eventually pay off if the playing time will give those role players confidence.
Ohio State will have to bounce back quickly from today’s tough loss as they return to action on Monday with the second game of their road trip. The Buckeyes will take on a very underrated Gonzaga team that has already beaten some major conference teams and whose only losses were to top ranked Stanford and 7th ranked Louisville. The game will tip at 9pm eastern and will tell us a lot about how far the Buckeyes can go this season.