The Ohio State women’s basketball team looked to copy the men’s team from yesterday and pull off an upset of Michigan State at home. Following a heart breaking loss to Minnesota last Thursday, the Buckeyes added a new wrinkle to their lineup as sophomore guard Raven Ferguson returned to the starting lineup but in a new position, taking over at the four spot. This change gives OSU a smaller lineup but one that is more athletic and one that is a bit more dangerous from the outside.
After Ohio State’s recent shooting woes, Buckeye fans were relieved and excited as Tayler Hill hit OSU’s first shot of the night with her foot on the three point line. The Buckeyes would hit 4 of their first 6 shots to take an 8-7 lead at the first media timeout. At that point OSU’s good offensive start quickly evaporated as the Buckeye missed five straight shots and Michigan State forced several turnovers. Fortunately MSU also struggled with its shooting during this stretch and only managed to take an 11-8 lead with just over fourteen minutes remaining in the first half. After three minutes of neither team being able to score, Ashley Adams finally hit a two point jumper which the Spartans immediately answered. The Adams basket seemed to re-ignite the Buckeye offense as Raven Ferguson hit a three to tie the game on the next trip down the floor and Ohio State went on an 18 to 5 run to take a 28-15 lead with just under five minutes on the clock. MSU wasn’t going to go away though as they scored six straight points and closed the half on an 8 to 2 run to cut the Ohio State lead to 30-23 at halftime.
Despite the stretch of five straight missed shots, Ohio State shot very well in the first half, hitting 42% of their shots from the field though they were only 1 of 6 from three point land. The Buckeyes committed five turnovers and had only two assists in the first 10 minutes of the game but then they settled down and took much better care of the ball, committing only more turnovers the rest of the half while recording 7 more assists.
Michigan State would score first in the second half but then Ohio State would go on a 9 to 2 run to take a 39-27 lead less than four minutes into the period. The two teams would trade baskets for most of the second half with the OSU lead shifting between 7 and 11 points as neither team could get a run going. The Buckeyes shot well during that stretch but couldn’t fully take advantage due to turnovers which kept the Spartans in the game. The Buckeyes led 63-54 with just under two minutes remaining when Spartan Jasmine Thomas scored 6 straight points to make it a three point game with thirty eight seconds remaining, giving MSU a chance. Michigan State quickly fouled Tayler Hill on OSU’s next possession and Hill made both free throws to make it a two point game. An Ashley Adams block and defensive rebound on the ensuing Spartan possession led to a layup by Hill that sealed the game and gave Ohio State a 67-60 victory.
Ohio State’s recent shooting woes were nowhere in sight for almost all of this game as the Buckeyes hit 51% of their shots from the floor, though the three point game still needs work as OSU went 2 of 9 from beyond-the-arc. The Buckeyes struggled with turnovers in the second half, finishing the game with 16, but they did continue to move the ball well and recorded 16 assists. The OSU defense did a very good job against the Spartans, despite allowing MSU to hit 42% of their shots. The Buckeyes didn’t allow the Spartans to get going from three point land and forced 18 turnovers and recorded 6 blocks. MSU did win the rebounding battle 34 to 29.
Ashley Adams led Ohio State with 16 points thanks to a great shooting night where she went 8 of 10. Adams also added 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks but struggled with turnovers, committing 7. Ameryst Alston had her best shooting night of her young career, going 7 of 8 and adding a free throw to finish with 15 points and 5 rebounds. Tayler Hill struggled with her outside shot, missing all five of her three point attempts, but finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and only 2 turnovers. Amber Stokes added a dozen points and was a defensive force, grabbing 4 rebounds, blocking 2 shots, coming up with 2 steals, and deflecting several more passes which didn’t show up in the stat book.
Rave Ferguson did well in her first start at the four spot, while she didn’t do a great job in her short range shooting; she hit the only three pointers for Ohio State and finished with 10 points. Despite giving up size inside, Ferguson hit the defensive boards hard and pulled down six rebounds while also blocking a shot. Ferguson played down low a lot in high school so this isn’t a totally new position for her and she should become more comfortable in time. She gives Ohio State a more athletic presence down low which is very good for a team that has struggled to box out over the past two seasons and she clearly can rebound. On the offensive end her ability to shoot from outside creates a mismatch for the opponents defense and opens up the middle, which likely helped lead to the good shooting day for Adams due to there being less defensive pressure down low.
Coach Foster used his bench very sparingly in this one, only three reserves got into the game and none of them played more than 10 minutes or scored. The team seemed to handle this well and when the starters were clicking as well as there were for most of the game, you don’t necessarily want to fiddle with that.
Tonight’s win was huge for the team, not only because it was a victory over a 20 win opponent which helps keep OSU’s slim hopes of an NCAA berth alive, but because it was a defiant response to those predicting doom for the team after the heart breaking loss to Minnesota last week. The Buckeyes clearly rebounded from that loss and came out tonight with a new sense of determination. This was the best overall team game that OSU has played all season; all five starters scored in double figures and all had at least 4 rebounds. Defensively the Buckeyes, led by Amber Stokes, were very disruptive as they forced 18 turnovers and took advantage of those turnovers by turning them into 25 points. OSU’s shooting woes were not a problem tonight, though Hill still is in a slump with the long ball, and if the Buckeyes could have cut down on the turnovers tonight this game wouldn’t even have been close.
Tonight’s win doesn’t mean that Ohio State’s problems are solved. We have been teased at other times this season with signs of hope and the team has dug itself into a pretty deep hole when it comes to their postseason chances. Still, a comfortable win against the fifth place team in the Big Ten where you pretty much controlled the entire game is definitely a step forward and should be a confidence booster. The fact that the win was truly a team effort, and not due to an outstanding performance from just one individual, is an even more encouraging sign. The Buckeyes will need to take another step forward on Thursday as they travel to Illinois. Ohio State has struggled on the road the last two years and Illinois has a strong inside game that will challenge what has been a defensive weakness for the Buckeyes ever since Jantel Lavender left.