Sorry for this recap being late, have been at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach this week and due to various conference obligations I didn’t get a chance to cover the game earlier.
After starting Big Ten season with two losses, the Ohio State women’s basketball team headed to Minnesota looking for a much needed win. Making matters more difficult for the Buckeyes was the loss of senior guard Amber Stokes to a sprained knee against Illinois; Stokes is expected to be out four weeks but should return in time for the end of conference play. With Stokes out, Raven Ferguson got the starting nod; Darryce Moore also returned to the starting lineup, replacing Aleksandra Dobranic.
The two teams traded baskets for the first four minutes of the game but then Minnesota used a 10 to 2 run to open up a 19-9 lead just over seven minutes into the game. A minute later Tayler Hill decided she had enough of the double digit deficit, scoring seven points in a minute and a half to key a 9 to 2 OSU run that cut the Golden Gopher lead to 23-20 just past the midpoint of the half. Minnesota quickly stretched that lead back to 8 points and then continued to take advantage of Buckeye turnovers, and an OSU defense that was a step slow, to extend their lead through the remainder of the half. When the horn finally sounded for halftime, the Buckeyes found themselves facing a giant 50-31 deficit.
The second half didn’t get off to a much better start as Minnesota scored 8 of the first 10 points to extend their lead to 58-33 just four minutes into the half. Buckeye fans got a spark of hope at this point as freshman guard Ameryst Alston scored 8 point in a two minute stretch as OSU used a 13 to 2 run to cut the deficit to 60-46. The two teams would trade baskets for the next seven minutes and with six minutes remaining the Gophers led 75-57. An old fashioned three point play by freshman guard Cait Craft ignited one final OSU surge as the Buckeyes went on a 15 to 5 run to make it a single digit game, 80-72, with slightly more than a minute remaining. Any hope of a miracle comeback was ended shortly after that after a pair of missed OSU shots which were followed by a three point play by the Gophers that secured Minnesota the 83-74 win.
As has been the case for most of the season, Ohio State shot amazingly well, hitting 52% of their shots from the field, though they did struggle from three point range. How could a team that hit more than half of its shots lose? Well, Minnesota shot well too, 40% from the field, but it was turnovers and rebounding, the nemesis of the Buckeyes over the past year or so, that once again proved their undoing. The Buckeyes committed 17 turnovers, compared to 10 for the Gophers, and were out rebounded 44-29. The offensive rebound numbers were even worse as Minnesota grabbed 20 offensive boards to only 8 for Ohio State. The Gophers took advantage of the Buckeyes struggling in these areas to score 19 second chance points and 28 points off of turnovers; that proved to be more than the difference in the game
Tayler Hill led Ohio State with 24 points, though she missed all 9 of her three point attempts; Hill also added 3 assists and 3 steals. Freshman point guard Ameryst Alston provided a major bright spot for OSU, scoring a career-high 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting. Alston has been a solid point guard for most of this season, putting on an impressive performance for a freshman, and this game showed that she also has the ability to score, something that will be needed in the coming weeks. After struggling with turnovers against Illinois, Alston did better against the Gophers, only committing 3 turnovers while dishing out 4 assists; as she gets more experience against college defenses Alston’s turnover numbers should continue to improve.
After providing scoring sparks off the bench in the past few games, Darryce Moore and Raven Ferguson took advantage of their return to the starting lineup by scoring 12 points each. Moore added 8 rebound but both players struggled with turnovers with Moore committing 6 while Ferguson had 4; hopefully these numbers will improve as the players get used to the new lineup.
This loss drops OSU to 0-3 in the Big Ten for the first time since the 2000-2001 season and Coach Foster seems to have had enough. Following the game Foster answered a reporter’s question about how to improve the energy level of some of the players by saying that those players wouldn’t play. While no names were specifically mentioned in this question, it isn’t hard to figure out who Foster was referring to as he also announced that he will be tweaking the starting lineup by shifting Darryce Moore to center while Ashley Adams will no longer start. Foster made this change in the second half against Minnesota and it caused a noticible improvement in the OSU defense. Two games in a row with lineup changes are not ideal but hopefully this move will provide a spark to the team as Moore has really come on over the past few games. Hopefully this will also serve as a wakeup call to Adams who is a great passing center with a nice shooting touch but who always seems to play with a lack of energy that limits her ability to be successful in terms of defense and rebounding.
Opening the Big Ten season with three straight losses is very concerning and Ohio State desperately needs to get out of this skid now, before their postseason hopes vanish. Fortunately there are some good signs, even in these losses. The Buckeyes have done a great job shooting this season, hitting more than 40% of their shots in all but three games this season. Turnovers and lack of rebounding have been the issues for Ohio State and these are the culprits in the losses. While it is unlikely that OSU will find a quick solution to the rebounding problems that have plagued them for the past season and a half, there is hope that the turnover numbers could fall as players get more experience in their new roles. Another positive sign from this game is that four Buckeyes reached double figures in scoring; hopefully this continues as it takes pressure off of a Tayler Hill and presents more of a challenge to opposing defenses.
Ohio State won’t have an easy job ending their skid though as they travel to West Lafayette on Monday to take on the 12th ranked Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue is 13-2 on the season with a win over 25th ranked Nebraska in their most recent game. The Boilermakers two losses have come at the hands of 2nd ranked Connecticut and 5th ranked Notre Dame; though the loss to the Irish was much worse than when the Irish knocked off OSU. The game will tip off at 7:30 on Monday and will be shown on BTN.