After winning just their second Big Ten game of the year by beating Indiana on Super Bowl Sunday, the Ohio State women’s basketball team hosted Wisconsin in an attempt to finally get a conference winning streak going. This game also represented the first chance at revenge this season for the Buckeyes who lost in Madison last month thanks to a disastrous second half where OSU couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
The first half was a tight, back-and-forth affair where neither team could get much breathing room in a very tough defensive battle where both teams really slowed down the pace of play. Wisconsin opened with a 6-2 lead only to see Ohio State tie it up at 6 after approximately six minutes of action. The Badgers would go back out front, 10-8 before the Buckeyes scored 7 straight to open up a 15-10 lead with just over seven minutes left in the half. Just as it seemed like OSU was going to have some nice momentum, Wisconsin responded with an 8 to 2 run of their own to retake the lead, 18-17, with four minutes remaining in the half. Those last four minutes continued the defensive, back-and-forth nature of the game but Ohio State managed to claw their way to a 26-24 halftime lead.
The second half opened at the same deliberate pace as the first half and once again Wisconsin was better in the opening minutes, scoring the first 5 points of the half to take a 29-26 lead. Ohio State responded though, scoring 9 straight points to take the largest lead of the game at that point, 35-29, with just over fourteen minutes remaining in the game. Once again the Buckeyes failed to fully seize the momentum and the Badgers came back strong with a 15 to 4 run to take their largest lead up to that point at 44-39 with five minutes remaining. After the teams traded layups, Aleksandra Dobranic made just her second three pointer of the season to cut the Wisconsin lead to 46-44 with just over four minutes remaining. OSU would tie the game up at 48 with a minute and half remaining only to see Wisconsin go up 4 with eleven seconds on the clock; setting up one of the craziest last second plays ever. Tayler Hill was fouled on a desperation three pointer with one and half seconds remaining on the clock; Hill’s shot missed but she would go to the line to shoot three. Hill made the first two shots but missed the third. Both teams fought for the rebound which was tipped to Ameryst Alston in the lane and Alston, knowing there was essentially no time left, just flipped the ball over her shoulder and Value City Arena exploded as the ball went in to force overtime.
The first overtime was a definition of a back-and-forth game as Wisconsin would repeatedly go up by 2 only to see Ohio State tie it up on their next possession. With the score tied at 58, Wisconsin would have a chance to win the game in the closing seconds of the overtime period but lost the ball as time expired to force a second overtime.
The second overtime could not have been more different from the first overtime. Wisconsin did grab the lead first, splitting two free throws, but that would be it as Ohio State would dominate the rest of the period, holding the Badgers scoreless as the Buckeyes pulled off the 65-59 victory.
Ohio State shot 38% from the field but were atrocious from beyond the arc, going 3 of 16 from three point range which really drug down their shooting percentage. The Buckeyes took very good care of the ball, committing only 8 turnovers while tallying 16 assists on 25 baskets. Defensively OSU held Wisconsin to the 37% shooting from the field, 20% from outside, and forced 14 turnovers. The Badgers dominated the boards though, out-rebounding the Buckeyes 48 to 33.
Ashley Adams led Ohio State with 16 points and 9 rebounds, just missing a double-double. Adams also added 4 blocks and 3 assists. Despite a bit of a slow start, Tayler Hill finished with 15 points and grabbed 5 rebounds, dished out 4 assists, and came up with 3 steals while only committing one turnover. Amber Stokes did a great job providing some major scoring coming off the bench, putting up 15 points.
Aleksandra Dobranic scored a crucial 9 points but the best thing about her is that she is developing a nice shooting range. Dobranic hit her second three pointer of the season tonight, both coming in the last three games, and added a beautiful 16 foot jumper down the stretch. If Dobranic can continue to shoot from at least midrange it will present challenges for opposing defenses as her 6’ 4” size means that you need a post player to properly guard her and pulling a post player out that far will really open up the inside for the guards and Adams to attack.
The hero of the game has to be Ameryst Alston. While she only scored 5 points, Alston’s over-the-shoulder heave at the buzzer that went in is a shot that OSU fans will be talking about for a long time (check out the video below, the shot happens around the 40 second mark).
When asked about the improbable shot in the postgame press conference, Coach Foster replied “She always makes interesting layups. She has a good sense around the basket and knows how to get there. For that play, she knew where she was.” While I am no expert in coach speak I think that Foster’s first sentence seems to imply that he isn’t sure how a lot of Alston’s layups go in but since they go in he is okay with it. The second sentence though speaks highly of Alston’s floor sense and on that shot she did seem to know where she was on the floor without having to stop and look but more importantly, Alston demonstrated a clear knowledge of the game situation and time remaining and she knew that she didn’t have time to take a proper shot, resulting in the heave. That kind of game awareness from a freshman is a great sign and is yet another indicator that Alston will have a bright future with the Buckeyes.
Tonight’s win was definitely not pretty, especially if you like offense. Ohio State did a great job of taking care of the ball, really improving in the turnover department which has given them issues all season. The Buckeyes also did a good job of shooting from inside the arc, hitting over 50% of their two pointers. Unfortunately OSU struggled mightily from long range and for some inexplicable reason kept settling for outside shots in the first overtime, even though they had success inside earlier and the Wisconsin center was playing with 4 fouls at that point. OSU’s biggest weakness over the last season and a half has been rebounding and once again it was a problem as Wisconsin easily dominated the boards. Fortunately the Badgers only managed to get 5 second chance points but OSU’s poor job rebounding cost them second chance opportunities.
Despite struggling at times tonight Ohio State never gave up and even when things seemed hopeless, even I had given up when OSU was down 4 with 1.5 seconds remaining, the team believed in themselves and they found a way to pull off the improbable comeback, force overtime, and win. This is the kind of victory that can cause a team that has been in a major slump for the past 6 weeks to start believing in themselves again and to get fired up for the rest of the season. With an overall record of 13-10 Ohio State has a long way to go if they want to even think of slipping into the NCAA tournament but tonight’s win should give them a little momentum on that journey. The next step on their journey will take the Buckeyes to Evanston on Sunday where they will take on Northwestern in a game that tips at 4:00pm and will be shown on BTN.