After snapping their three game losing streak with a win against Army on Friday, the Ohio State women’s basketball team headed back out on the road to face the Cincinnati Bearcats. Cincinnati came into the game with a 4-4 record that included a bad loss to Northern Kentucky but only a narrow loss to a good Florida State team. The Buckeyes came in with a 7-5 record and were looking to get a winning streak started to get them headed toward Big Ten play on the right foot.
The first half was a tight, back and forth affair that saw frequent lead changes and numerous ties as neither team was able to pull away or really get much of a streak going. With just under five minutes remaining in the half, a steal and layup by Cait Craft gave Ohio State a 21-17 lead; the largest lead of the game at that point. Unfortunately Cincinnati responded by controlling the rest of the half with a 12 to 2 run that put them up 29-23 heading into the break.
After Cincinnati managed to extend their lead to 8 points, 33-25, early in the second half, OSU responded with an 8 to 2 run to make it a two point game just six and a half minutes into the second session. Unfortunately the Buckeyes couldn’t take advantage of their newfound momentum and the Bearcats quickly extended their lead back to six points. A Cait Craft three-pointer made it a three point game but then Cinci went on an 8 to 2 run to give themselves a comfortable 47-38 lead with just over eight minutes remaining on the clock. OSU would never really be able to cut into that lead and Cincinnati coasted down the stretch to a 64-49 win, a margin aided by OSU intentionally fouling in the closing minute.
Once again Ohio State struggled with their shot, going 33% from the field and 20% from beyond-the –arc. A big reason that Cinci was able to pull away in the second half was that the Buckeyes only shot 29% from the field in the second half. OSU also struggled on the boards, losing the battle there 45 to 35.
There were several positive signs for the Buckeyes though. After struggling with turnovers for much of the season, OSU did a good job of taking care of the ball in this one, only committing 11 turnovers while tallying 10 assists, showing improved ball movement. Defensively OSU continues to play well, if you ignore rebounding, as they limited the Bearcats to 35% from the field and 28% from three point range. The Buckeyes also came up with 8 steals and 11 blocked shots.
Ameryst Alston and Darryce Moore each scored 12 points to lead Ohio State. Alston also added 5 assists and an impressive 4 steals while Moore grabbed 7 rebounds and recorded 3 blocks. Cait Craft also reached double digits, scoring 10 points while going 2 of 4 from beyond-the-arc. Raven Ferguson replaced Amy Scullion in the starting lineup and scored 9 points while pulling down 7 boards and adding 4 assists. Martina Ellerbe was the other Buckeye to score, adding 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Both teams shot about the same from the field and committed about the same number of turnovers so what was the difference in this game. The first major difference was at the foul line. OSU was called for 19 fouls (3 in the closing minute when they were intentionally fouling) while Cincinnati was called for 11. The difference was even bigger when it came to appearances at the charity stripe as the Buckeyes only had 7 free throw attempts while the Bearcats had 21 (6 in the final minute). OSU made 5 of its 7 attempts while Cinci made 17 of their 21, accounting for a difference of 12 points. Normally the Buckeyes are a very disciplined team who gets to the line more than their opponent but tonight that clearly didn’t happen.
The other major difference as in terms of second chance opportunities, while both teams had a similar number of offensive boards, 14 for Cinci and 10 for OSU, the Bearcats took better advantage of theirs and led 15 to 7 in terms of second chance points. Unfortunately the struggles on the boards have been a common thing for OSU over the past two seasons and it clear that it is going to continue to be an issue that needs a lot of attention and work.
This was a game that Ohio State should have won and its going to be interesting to see how the team responds now. OSU’s five previous losses came to teams that were at least receiving votes, if not actually ranked, and this was the first bad loss. The Buckeyes have struggled with their shot lately and one has to wonder if the players aren’t getting a bit frustrated and are trying to force things. Martina Ellerbe and Raven Ferguson particularly struggled tonight, going a combined 5 of 25 from the field.
Fortunately Ohio State continues to play great defense which is keeping them in games but they need to get over the hump on the offensive end if they want to actually be able to win. The reduction in the number of turnovers tonight was a very good sign, as was the increase in assists. Now it is the team’s shooting that needs to be addressed. The Buckeyes won’t have long to address that issue though as they are back in action on Tuesday night as they host a 6-3 Tennessee-Martin team that won’t be a pushover.