Ohio State Becomes Latest Victim of Connecticut, 70-49

Written December 1st, 2013 by Charles

UConn's athleticism inside was too much for Ohio State.

UConn’s athleticism inside was too much for Ohio State.

After bouncing back from their second loss of the season with a win over Lehigh, the Ohio State women’s basketball team faced their biggest challenge of the season today as they took on top ranked Connecticut in Springfield, Massachusetts in the premier game of the first annual women’s Hall of Fame Challenge.  The Huskies entered this game 8-0 and boasting an average margin of victory of nearly 40 points which included games against #6 Stanford, #8 Maryland, and #13 Penn State; UConn’s average margin of victory in those games was 18 points.

Both teams opened the game with a very deliberate tempo, moving the ball around on offense and working to get good looks though good defense by both squads limited those looks early.  Connecticut scored the first four points of the game before Martina Ellerbe got things going for the Buckeyes with a three pointer and Ameryst Alston followed with a layup to give OSU a 5-4 lead.  The Huskies responded with six straight points to retake the lead.  A jumper and a free throw by Alston would pull the Buckeyes within two, 10-8, with eleven minutes remaining in the half but Connecticut responded with a 10 to 2 run to extend their lead to double digits, 20-10.  Ellerbe’s second three pointer of the night would make that lead 20-15 with four and a half to go but then the Huskie defense locked down as they closed the half on a 15 to 2 run to go into the half leading 35-17.

The second half mostly played out as an exercise in the inevitable as Ohio State never managed to seriously threaten Connecticut.  The Huskies extended their lead to 21 on a couple occasions and the Buckeyes managed to get as close as 14, 50-36, with eight minutes to play but for the most part the two teams traded baskets.  When the final buzzer sounded, UConn had a 70-49 win.

Ohio State struggled with their shot in this one, hitting 31% from the field but going 3 of 7 from three point range.  A lot of the Buckeyes shooting struggles were due to the great defense played by UConn which kept OSU from getting any sort of flow in their game.  After struggling with turnovers in recent games, the Buckeyes did a better job taking care of the ball in this one, committing only 13 turnovers, though I would have liked to see more than 3 assists.

Defensively Ohio State really forced UConn to work for their shots and the Huskies had to go much deeper into the shot clock than they are used to.  Unfortunately UConn is an excellent team and they managed to hit shots, going 44% from the field.  The good news is that after getting torched from beyond the arc by Marist and Bowling Green, OSU did a much better job defending the three in this one, limiting UConn to only 6 of 24 from long range.  The Buckeye defense also managed to pressure the Huskies into committing 16 turnovers.

UConn’s size, and most importantly their athleticism, on the interior proved to be a big factor in this game.  The Huskies did a lot of their scoring damage on the inside and recorded 9 blocks on the defensive end.  UConn also won the rebounding battle 45 to 37.  The interior athleticism of the Huskies also had an impact on the game plan as Ashley Adams saw little playing time due to her being less mobile than Darryce Moore and Martina Ellerbe.

Raven Ferguson came off the bench to lead Ohio State with 14 points while shooting a solid 6 of 11 from the field.  Ameryst Alston was the only other Buckeye in double digits with 11 points.  Darryce Moore tallied 9 points and grabbed 8 boards though once again she was in a bit of foul trouble.  Martina Ellerbe followed up her career high against Lehigh with 8 points which included a pair of three pointers.  Ellerbe’s ability to hit three pointers consistently, she was 2 of 4 in this game, makes her a major offensive threat at the forward position as she will really stretch opposing defenses.

This loss is certainly disappointing, every loss is, but it isn’t unexpected.  UConn is the top of the class in women’s college basketball and has been for a while and it would have taken a perfect storm of things for OSU to win this one.  When he was hired, Kevin McGuff said that his goal was to win championships so games against elite teams like UConn are an important opportunity for everyone at OSU to see how they matchup against the best and what they need to do to get to that level.  Today’s game showed that OSU still has a ways to go to reach that level.  In the first half the Buckeyes got all but 2 of their points from Alston and Ellerbe, more players need to step up in tough games in order to keep the offense going.  Ohio State also needs to work on their athleticism inside as UConn really took advantage of that mismatch.

There are several positive things to take away from this game too. Even though they struggled shooting, the Buckeyes also did a very good job of working for good shots for most of the game; unfortunately UConn’s defense didn’t give them many good opportunities.   Despite facing large deficits for most of the gae, Ohio State continued to play tough, scrappy defense that obviously surprised the ESPN announcers who clearly expected the Buckeyes to roll over and die once the Huskies made their first basket.  OSU held Conneticut to their lowest scoring of the season and the only teams who had a smaller margin of defeat to the Huskies were #8 Maryland (17 points), #6 Stanford (19 points) and #13 Penn State (19 points).  Considering that this is still a young team with a new coach, doing about as well against the #1 team in the country as anyone else, including highly ranked teams, has this season is a positive sign.

Another good thing about this game was that Ohio State was selected to play against Connecticut in the nationally televised, premier game of the first annual women’s basketball Hall of Fame Challenge.  Combine this with the Buckeyes being chosen to play another perennial top 10 team, Notre Dame, last season in the first women’s basketball game to be played on an aircraft carrier and it is clear that Ohio State is being considered by many in women’s basketball as a very good program that is worth putting in the spotlight.  This gives Coach McGuff a powerful tool to use in recruiting as he can point out that if recruits come to Ohio State they will get to play in big games on the national stage.

Things don’t get much easier for Ohio State after this one as they travel to College Park to take on #8 Maryland in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge at 7:00 pm on Wednesday.  The Terrapins come in with a 7-1 record with their only loss being to Connecticut.

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