After a few days off to spend Christmas with their families, the Ohio State women’s basketball team was back on campus today to host Virginia Commonwealth. Upon returning to the Schott, the team found their familiar surroundings not as familiar as when they left due to a new court being installed. As I mentioned in last week’s hive, the new court harkens back to the old days of playing at St. John Arena with its outline of the state of Ohio in the middle of the court.
Ohio State showed no sign of any sluggishness from eating too many Christmas cookies during their break as they quickly jumped out to a 16-2 lead in the first seven minutes of the game. VCU would score the next five points to cut the Buckeye lead to nine but that would be the last time it would be a single digit game. The Buckeyes looked like a well-oiled machine as they steadily built on their lead. Nothing that the Rams tried would slow down the OSU offense and when the horn sounded to signal halftime, the Buckeyes led 47-21, setting a new season high for points scored in a half in the process. Normally I try to inject some of the game drama into these recaps but there wasn’t really any today as the second half was pretty much the same as the first, with the Ohio State offense just rolling along on the way to an 88-50 win.
Ohio State’s offense has been pretty efficient for most of the season, especially in terms of their shooting, but today took that to a whole new level. Maybe they were inspired by the shiny new floor but whatever the reason; the Buckeye offense was amazingly smoothly polished today. OSU shot 57% from the floor, 43% from beyond the arc. The team moved the ball well with a crisp passing game that led to 26 assists, compared to only 11 turnovers. Defensively the Buckeyes held VCU to 30% from the floor and 33% from beyond the arc. OSU also won the rebound battle, 38 to 31, though that is still closer than I would like to see for a game like this.
Despite getting off to a slow start in terms of shooting, Tayler Hill led the team with 20 points and ended up going 8 of 17 from the floor, becoming the 11th OSU player to score 1600 points for her career in the process. Hill played with a lot of tenacity today, grabbing 7 rebounds, four of them offensive, and coming up with a steal and a block. Earlier today Michael said that he would like to see Hill improve her assist-to-turnover ratio, I suspect he will be happy with Tayler’s 4 assists and 0 turnovers tonight. Forward/center Aleksandra Dobranic continued her recent stellar play on offense, going 7 of 8 from the field to score a career-high 14 points while also adding 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. The past three games have seen Dobranic set or tie her career high in scoring and she is becoming a major offensive threat.
The other Buckeye to reach double digits was Raven Ferguson who came off the bench to score 15 points in only 16 minutes of action, helped by her hitting a career-high 3 three-pointers. This makes two games in a row where Ferguson has come off the bench to put on an impressive scoring performance, essentially putting up almost a point per minute of action.
Guards Amber Stokes and Ameryst Alston put on impressive defensive performances, each grabbing 3 steals with Stokes pulling down 6 rebounds and Alston grabbing 5. Both also had an impact on the offensive end as Alston scored 6 points while Stokes added 7 points and 6 assists.
Coach Foster once again used his bench liberally with 12 Buckeyes seeing the floor and 11 of them scoring. Ferguson was not the only player to reach a career-high while coming off the bench as Darryce Moore had a career-high 6 assists to go with 8 rebounds and 4 points in only 14 minutes of action.
VCU wasn’t an opponent that was expected to put up a challenge but this was definitely a win worth getting a bit excited amount. Not only did Ohio State avoid any sort of holiday hangover in their dominating win, we saw signs that several role players are developing into threats that opponents will have to contend with. Since getting the starting job a few weeks ago, Aleksandra Dobranic has truly blossomed and has shown that she truly deserves her starting spot. She has now tied or set a new career-high in scoring in three straight games and is clearly becoming an offensive threat which will put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses who will have to contend with both her and Ashley Adams down low; this should open up more opportunities for Adams as well as for OSU guards to attack the basket. Raven Ferguson has now turned in two straight impressive performances off the bench and looks worthy of getting her starting spot back. This actually poses a welcome problem for Coach Foster as he has four guards that are all worthy of starting. Ferguson is likely to continue to come off the bench as Tayler Hill needs to continue to start due to her scoring power, Amber Stokes is the best on-the-ball defender on the team, and Ameryst Alston plays the point which is not the natural position of the other guards. Fortunately having a scoring spark like Ferguson coming off the bench is a very good thing and if she keeps this up she will be a major contender for the Big Ten’s 6th player of the year award.
Ohio State closes out the non-conference portion of their schedule by hosting Howard on Sunday, December 30th at 2:00pm. The Buckeyes will then open conference play with a trip to Iowa on January 3rd.