After getting bouncing back from a disappointing upset at the hands of Cincinnati with a dominating win over UT Martin, the Ohio State women’s basketball team looked to get on a winning streak as they played host to Appalachian State. While the Mountaineers entered this game with a 2-7 record, Buckeye fans everywhere should know that you can’t take Appalachian State lightly (yes, every article about Appy State must have that video included somehow).
The warning about not taking Appalachian State lightly seemed to be very prudent as the Mountaineers scored the first five points of the game on their way to getting out to an early 7-1 lead. Faced with that surprising deficit, Ohio State finally woke up and used an 10 to 2 run to take an 11-9 lead approximately six minutes into the action. The Buckeyes weren’t able to sustain that momentum though and a combination of poor shooting and turnovers led to an eight and a half minute scoreless streak. Fortunately the OSU defense continued to play tough and while Appalachian State was able to use OSU’s struggles to retake the lead, they were only able to go up 17-11 at the midpoint in the half before going on an eight and a half minute scoreless streak of their own; there was actually a four minute stretch where neither team scored. Once the Buckeyes figured out how to score again, they managed to trim the Mountaineer lead to one point, 17-16, with three and half minutes remaining in the half. OSU couldn’t retake the lead though and the two teams concluded the first half with Appalachian State leading 21-18.
Like they did in the first half, Appalachian State scored the first five points of the second half to go up 26-18 and cause OSU fans to worry that they were about to be the next Big Ten team to fall victim to the Mountaineers. Fortunately the OSU team had other plans and the defense clamped down, once again causing a scoreless streak for the Mountaineers that lasted over eight minutes. In the meantime the Buckeye offense showed some signs of life, scoring 16 points to put OSU up 32-26 with eight and half minutes remaining. A jumper by Appy State leading scorer on the season Maryah Sydnor ended the scoreless streak for the Mountaineers but the Buckeyes weren’t impressed as they then went on a 14 to 2 run to take control of the game with a 48-32 lead with three and a half minutes remaining on the clock. OSU would coast the rest of the way to a 52-38 win.
As the final score indicates, this wasn’t a pretty win by any means. Ohio State shot only 39% from the field and went 2 of 14 from three point range. Making matters worse the Buckeyes committed 23 turnovers while only recording 11 assists. Fortunately the Buckeye defense made things just as miserable for the Mountaineers, holding Appalachian State to 32% shooting, 2 of 13 from beyond-the-arc, while forcing 24 turnovers. Despite their size advantage, OSU only won the rebound battle 34 to 30 with each team grabbing 13 offensive boards. A big, and crucial difference, was how the two teams took advantage of their second chance opportunities and the Buckeyes were a clear winner in that department with a 16 to 6 edge; 15 of those Buckeye second chance points would come in the second half. While their size advantage didn’t really show up on the boards, it did show up in the interior scoring as OSU dominated the points in the paint 28 to 10.
After barely being present for a string of games, Ashley Adams saw more action against UT Martin and against Appalachian State she was absolutely key, coming off the bench to lead OSU with 12 points in 24 minutes of action; Adams also grabbed 5 rebounds and blocked 2 shots. Ameryst Alston added 11 points and a pair of steals while Cait Craft chipped in 10 points. Martina Ellerbe added 6 points and a team high 11 rebounds but struggled to take care of the ball, committing 6 turnovers. Amy Scullion followed up her career scoring night against UT Martin with only 1 point but she did use her size to grab 6 rebounds. Raven Ferguson came off the bench to lead the team with 4 assists while adding 5 points, including a key three pointer which ignited OSU’s second half run that saw them take the lead for good, but she did struggle a bit with turnovers, committing 4.
It’s hard to know what to make of this game. All of the offensive demons that seemed to have been exorcized against UT Martin, poor shooting and turnovers, came back in this one and rebounding continues to be a challenge for the scarlet and grey. However the OSU defense continues to play great, forcing turnovers and limiting Appalachian State’s shooting to keep the game within reach until the Buckeye offense could get things going. Coming into this game a big question was how would the Buckeyes be able to contain Maryah Sydnor, a 6’1” forward who is a deadly shot from close as well as distance; Sydnor entered the game shooting 48% from the field and 41% from three point range while averaging 22 points and 9 rebounds per game. The OSU defense did a great job on Sydnor, limiting her to 11 points and 3 rebounds while absolutely frustrating her in the shooting game as Sydnor went 5 of 17 from the field and 1 of 5 from beyond-the-arc.
Coach Kevin McGuff and the defense also deserve a lot of credit for the ability to make in game adjustments quickly. Appalachian State guard Joi Jones started the game by hitting her first three shots from the field and scoring 7 points in the opening seven minutes of the game. OSU adjusted their defense on her and Jones would not make another shot or score another point for the rest of the game.
At this point it is clear that the Ohio State offense is still a work in progress and anyone expecting fireworks from them should be prepared for a frustrating season as while the Buckeyes have shown they can put together great games offensively, they have shown that those games are going to be more of the exception than the rule. However those wanting to see excellent defense from a team that will fight and scrap for 40 minutes every game will be very happy with how this team plays.
The Buckeyes will now have a few days off to go home and spend Christmas with their families. The team won’t have too much time to enjoy Christmas leftovers though as they will have to return to campus to prepare for their last non-conference game against North Carolina Central at noon on December 29th.