Its only mid-January but for the Ohio State women’s basketball team tonight’s game against Indiana was a must win. An 0-4 start to Big Ten play, the worst in the history of the program, had led to OSU being dropped from the national rankings and had essentially destroyed any realistic hopes of winning a Big Ten title. Starting with tonight’s game the Buckeyes were battling for a first day bye in the Big Ten tournament and an NCAA tournament berth. OSU got a boost heading into this game as Tayler Hill and Maleeka Kynard both returned to action after sitting out last game due to illness.
Ohio State did not get off to a good start as they missed their first six shots from the field, taking more than three and a half minutes to hit their first field goal. Fortunately Indiana wasn’t really shooting any better and at the first television timeout the game was tied at 2 points for each team. The Hoosiers scored the first four points out of that tv timeout but then the Buckeyes responded with a 10 to 2 run to take a 12-8 lead with eleven minutes remaining in the half. Indiana quickly retook the lead with a 9 to 2 run of their own before OSU countered with six straight points to go ahead 20-17 with five minutes on the clock. The two teams would essentially trade baskets for the rest of the half with the Buckeyes managing to extend their lead to 30-24 as the teams headed to the locker rooms.
In complete contrast to how they started the game, the Buckeyes came out hot in the second half, opening with a 12 to 4 run to open up a 42-28 lead just a bit over three minutes into the half. After trading baskets for a couple minutes, OSU went on a 15 to 4 run to extend their lead to 62-37 with four and a half minutes to go, making the rest of the game a mere formality. Ohio State coasted the rest of the way as the recorded their first Big Ten win of the season, 68-45.
After missing their first six shots, Ohio State’s shooting rapidly improved and they finished the day shooting 47% from the field, though they did struggle from behind the arc, hitting only 19% of their threes. The Buckeyes did a great job moving the ball, recording 20 assists on 26 baskets while only committing 12 turnovers. Defensively OSU held Indiana to 33% from the field and 20% from three point land. In a very positive sign the Buckeyes dominated the boards, pulling down 44 rebounds to 32 for the Hoosiers.
As normal Tayler Hill led Ohio State with 15 points, though she struggled with her long range shot, hitting only 1 of 6 three point attempts. Hill wasn’t happy with just leading the team in scoring as she also fought hard on the boards, pulling down 8 rebounds which tied for a team high in this one. Hill also recorded 4 assists, 2 blocks, a steal, and no turnovers. Darryce Moore had another very good game, scoring 14 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. Ashley Adams added 10 points, 4 assists, and 2 blocks but still needs to work on her rebounding as she came up with only 3 boards. Aleksandra Dobranic turned in a good performance from the bench, scoring 10 points on 5 of 7 shooting. While she didn’t light up the scoreboard like she did against Purdue, freshman guard Ameryst Alston put on a great show in terms of running the offense, tallying 7 assists while committing only 1 turnover. Alston also scored 7 points and had 8 rebounds to tie Hill for the team high.
While Indiana isn’t exactly contending for a conference title, in fact they are only a half-game ahead of OSU, near the bottom of the Big Ten, this win was a very encouraging sign for a team that had struggled to get things to click properly the past four games. At least for one game OSU showed major improvement in the aspects of their game that they have struggled with this season, and that has cost them games. After struggling on the boards for the past season and a half, the Buckeyes clearly dominated the boards and while that didn’t lead to much of an edge in second chance points, 13 to 8, it did give the Hoosiers far fewer chances. OSU had also struggled with turnovers in recent games, tonight they only committed 12 which led to 10 points for Indiana; the Buckeyes got the same number of points off of turnovers.
While Tayler Hill’s 15 points were below her season average, the more balanced scoring is sort of preferable to Hill going off. Four Buckeyes scored in double figures and one more was close behind with 7 points. This kind of balance makes OSU much harder to defend and takes pressure off of Hill if she has a slow start, like she did tonight. Foster continued to use his bench much more than he has done in previous seasons as 12 Buckeyes saw action and 10 of them scored.
Tonight’s win doesn’t mean that things are all better for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are still 10th in the Big Ten and are not on the positive side of the NCAA bubble. Still, tonight’s win was a good start and should serve as a nice shot of confidence to the team. The Buckeyes now need to show that they can do the same thing on the road as they travel to Wisconsin on Sunday in a game that tips at 3:00pm.