After getting their first Big Ten win of the year against Indiana, the Ohio State women’s basketball team knew that they couldn’t relax heading into today’s game against Wisconsin. Even though the Badgers came into this game as one of the two teams in the Big Ten that still didn’t have a conference win, the game would be in Madison and road wins are always tough to come by in the conference and the Buckeyes had a big hole still to dig out of after losing their first four conference games.
Ohio State got off to a good start, scoring the first seven points of the game on the way to taking an early 10-2 lead. Wisconsin quickly responded though, scoring 9 straight points, helped in part by a pair of costly Buckeye fouls, to take an 11-10 lead about eight minutes into the game. After exchanging a few baskets with the Badgers, the Buckeyes took advantage of three pointers by Cait Craft and Raven Ferguson to score 10 unanswered and retake a 23-14 lead with six minutes left in the half. Wisconsin wasn’t impressed though, putting together a 7 to 2 run to cut the lead to 25-21. OSU would quickly extend the lead to eight but the Badgers took advantage of two Buckeye fouls in the closing minute to cut the OSU lead to 29-25 as the half ended.
Ohio State shot very well in the first half, going 50% from the field and 44% from three point range. In a very encouraging sign the Buckeyes were doing a great job on the boards, winning the rebounding battle 17 to 9, something that is almost unheard of in Big Ten play. Turnovers were unfortunately a problem though, as they have been many times this season; OSU turned the ball over 12 times which lead to 15 points for Wisconsin. Fouls were also an issue for the Buckeyes as they committed 8 fouls in the first half, sending Wisconsin to the free throw line ten times and the Badgers took advantage, sinking all ten freebies.
Wisconsin used the momentum from the last minute of the first half to get off to a hot start in the second half, opening with a 21 to 4 run over the first eight minutes of the half to take a 46-33 lead over the Buckeyes. Poor shooting by the Buckeyes and good shooting and rebounding by the Badgers were the keys to that opening run that put OSU in a hole that was too deep to crawl out of. Ohio State would finally start to score a bit but they never really could get their offense on track or stop Wisconsin as the Badgers cruised the rest of the way to a 68-49 win.
After a great shooting first half, Ohio State was stone cold in the second half and finished the game shooting a dismal 34% from the field and 29% from three point range. Making matters worse, the Buckeyes went 11 of 17 from the charity stripe. In contrast, Wisconsin was on fire in the second half, making 60% of their shots to finish the game shooting 47% from the field, 33% from beyond-the-arc, and 100% (15 of 15) from the free throw line. The Badgers out-rebounded the Buckeyes 20 to 12 in the second half and the two teams finished the game with 29 rebounds apiece.
As usual Tayler Hill led Ohio State with 16 points, though that was below her season average. Hill was one of only two Buckeyes to not struggle with their shot in this one as she went 6 of 11 from the field, 3 of 6 from long range. Considering how well she was shooting, one must wonder if Hill is possibly still feeling a bit worn down from her illness last week as otherwise you would expect her to be getting more shots in a game like this one. The other Buckeye to shoot well was Ashley Adams who was 4 of 7 for 11 points; Adams also added 15 rebounds for a double-double.
The Buckeyes completely collapsed after halftime in this one, if it could go wrong, it did. After a good first half in terms of shooting, OSU had one of its worst shooting halves of the year as the team was pretty much unable to buy a basket, going 5 of 25 after the intermission. Bad shooting streaks will happen though but things were made worse as Wisconsin found their rhythm on the offensive end, shooting about 50% for the half themselves. After a very good rebounding performance in the first half, Ohio State got dominated on the boards; while this didn’t give Wisconsin many second chance opportunities it made sure that the Buckeyes got even fewer. While Adams had a very good day on the boards, the OSU guards were surprisingly absent, struggling to get position against their Wisconsin counterparts.
The offensive problems for the Buckeyes couldn’t be confined to just one position as, other than Hill and Adams, pretty much everyone else struggled. Wisconsin plays a small lineup but OSU couldn’t take advantage of their size inside, scoring only 18 points in the paint while giving up 24. After developing a solid scoring threat in recent weeks, forward Darryce Moore should have had a big game against an undersized Badger team but she was 1 of 7 shooting, scoring most of her 6 points at the free throw line. The Buckeye guards, other than Hill, didn’t do any better as Raven Ferguson and Cait Craft combined to go 3 of 15 from the field. Defensively the Buckeye guards also struggled, utterly failing to slow down Wisconsin’s Morgan Paige who scored 28 points.
Much of the Buckeyes’ struggles in the second half can be attributed a lack of ball movement. Once the shots stopped falling nobody really stepped up for OSU, instead it seemed like everyone was standing around, waiting for someone else to take over and lead the way. While it would be nice if multiple people could step up under those circumstances, Tayler Hill needs to be a leader and take control.
Any cautious optimism that the win over Indiana created is now gone and Ohio State’s season is now in full on crisis mode as the Buckeyes are now 11-8 on the year, 1-5 in the Big Ten. A Big Ten title is out of the picture and it would take a monumental end of the season run to even finish in the top four of the conference to earn a first day bye in the Big Ten tournament. At this point OSU’s focus must be on just making the NCAA tournament and right now they aren’t even on the bubble looking-in; an at-large tournament berth is still possible but OSU can only afford to lose 1 more regular season game for that to happen. That will be a major challenge as Ohio State has several tough games remaining on the schedule, starting next Sunday when they host 8th ranked Penn State. A win over the Nittany Lions would be a major boost for OSU’s confidence and would also give them a desperately needed boost to their NCAA resume which would help cancel out the embarrassment of today’s loss. For that to happen the Buckeyes are going to have to figure some things out quickly this week as today’s game revealed nothing positive about the team.