After facing the number one team in the country on Sunday, things didn’t get easier for the Ohio State women’s basketball team as they traveled to College Park to face 8th ranked Maryland in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge; yes, someone decided that OSU and Maryland would play each other in both the men’s and women’s challenges and both games would occur at the same time. The Terrapins have done very well in the challenge for the ACC over the years and were looking to conclude their participation on the ACC side with a win while the Buckeyes were looking to improve on their 2-4 record in the challenge.
Maryland opened the scoring and jumped out to a 5-0 lead but Ohio State quickly responded with four straight points to make it a 5-4 game two and a half minutes in. The Terrapins used a 7 to 2 run to extend their lead to six points but the Buckeyes quickly responded and used an Ameryst Alston three pointer to cut the deficit to 13-11 with just over six minutes run off the clock. From there the two teams traded baskets for the rest of the first half with Maryland unable to get more than a four point lead and OSU unable to take the lead despite chances. Neither team shot well in the first half, both going around 30% from the floor. The Terrapins dominated the boards early on but as the half went on, OSU evened that out a bit and at halftime Maryland held a 26 to 21 advantage in rebounds. The Buckeyes did a great job taking care of the ball early while forcing Terrapin turnovers but just like in rebounds, those numbers pretty much evened out by the end of the half.
The second half didn’t open well for Ohio State as Maryland came out on an 11 to 2 run to stretch their lead to double digits, 40-28, just over four and a half minutes into the second period. The Buckeyes finally got their offense going and the deficit swung between 7 and 12 points for most of the rest of the half before OSU put together an 11 to 2 run to make it a three point game, 56-53, with three minutes remaining. Unfortunately the Terrapins responded with seven straight points that put the game out of reach as Maryland hung on to win 67-55.
Ohio State’s defense did a great job of keeping Maryland’s shooting in check, holding the Terrapins to only 36% from the floor and 2 of 11 from three point range. The Buckeye defense also recorded 7 steals while pressuring Maryland into 13 turnovers. Unfortunately OSU couldn’t stop forward Alyssa Thomas who was 50% from the floor while scoring 25 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, mostly in the second half. Ohio State struggled with their own shot in this one, going 31% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc. The Buckeyes did a pretty good job of taking care of the ball, committing only 12 turnovers and only 4 in the second half.
Rebounding continues to be a struggle for OSU as they were dominated on the boards 53 to 35 which included 23 offensive rebounds for the Terrapins. The rebounding issues for Ohio State were made worse due to Maryland’s athleticism on the inside forcing Ashley Adams to spend most of the game on the bench due to her not having the necessary mobility.
Ameryst Alston led Ohio State with 18 points while also grabbing 5 rebounds, though her 3 turnovers to 1 assist were a bit disappointing. Cait Craft and Martina Ellerbe each added 11 points and 4 rebounds with Ellerbe also getting 2 steals and a block. Darryce Moore was once against limited in playing time due to foul trouble but still managed to grab a team high 8 rebounds while also chipping in 6 points. Raven Ferguson made a nice impact off the bench with 5 points, 5 rebounds, and a pair of steals and assists. Lisa Blair saw some playing time and while she didn’t make a big impact on the stat sheet, only 3 rebounds, she did use her 6’6” size to alter a lot of Maryland’s shot on the inside.
This was a disappointing loss. While it wasn’t expected that Ohio State would win this game, they were only down 3 with just under three minutes to go and with all the momentum but they just couldn’t get over the hump in the end. Fatigue may have been a factor as OSU is still shorthanded and a second half injury to Maleeka Kynard didn’t help matters. The Buckeyes did just about everything you could want them to do in this game, they took care of the ball on offense and their defense really held Maryland in check. OSU could have shot better but the big difference was rebounding which the Buckeyes have struggled at over the past two years. I’m not sure what the answer is in the short term when it comes to rebounding, things should get a bit better during the Big Ten season when Ashley Adams will likely see more playing time as the Big Ten style of play tends to suit her better.
This team continues to show that they are tough and that they are fighters. They never quit against top ranked UConn and while they came up short today, battling back from a double digit second half deficit to pull within one basket in the closing minutes against a top ranked team whose only loss had come at the hands of UConn is pretty impressive. There are still many areas that need improvement but I think Kevin McGuff and the team know what they need to do take things to the next level.
Things only get slightly easier from here for the Buckeyes as they take on 24th ranked Gonzaga at noon on Sunday. The Bulldogs are 5-1 on the year with their only loss coming on the road against 11th ranked Oklahoma, 82-78. Fortunately for Ohio State the game is at home and they will have a few days to rest up while Gonzaga plays a home game against Portland State on Friday before flying to Columbus.