The Ohio State women’s basketball team entered their final home game of the 2013-2014 season today on a five game losing streak that had seen the Buckeyes go from solid contenders for an NCAA tournament berth to under .500 on the season and had fueled speculation that the team had just kind of hung it up for the rest of the season. Even though there is still a week left in the regular season, OSU’s last two games are on the road so today’s game was Senior Day for Martina Ellerbe, Amy Scullion, Darryce Moore, Ashley Adams, and Aleksandra Dobranic. Ohio State has really struggled on Sunday’s during the Big Ten season and considering their losing streak coming into the game, there were lots of doubts about whether they could send the seniors out correctly.
Ohio State got things off to an encouraging start with senior Martina Ellerbe opening the scoring with a three pointer as OSU jumped out to an early 7-2 lead. Northwestern would score the next five points before OSU went on a 14 to 3 run to open up a 23-10 lead at the midpoint of the first half. After trading baskets for the next few minutes, the Buckeyes scored 10 straight points, thanks to a pair of three pointers by Raven Ferguson, to extend their lead to 37-16 with five minutes remaining in the half. The teams would trade baskets the rest of the way and Ohio State led 41-21 at the half.
Ohio State was great on both ends of the court in the first half, shooting 49% from the field and going 5 of 8 from three point range while limiting Northwestern to 32% shooting. More impressive was that the Buckeyes forced 12 Wildcat turnovers which they turned into 18 points while allowing no points off of turnovers of their own.
The second half started out as a back and forth affair with the teams primarily trading baskets while the Ohio State lead swung between 18 and 24 points. With nine minutes remaining in the game, OSU held a comfortable 54-34 lead but their hot shooting from the first half was gone. Northwestern took advantage of OSU’s decline in shooting to go on a 9 to 1 run to cut the Buckeye lead to 12 with just under six minutes remaining. The two teams then began to trade baskets before 7 unanswered points by the Wildcats made it a five point game, 64-59, with a minute remaining on the clock. With what had looked like an easy win only eight minutes before suddenly looked like it was in jeopardy but the Buckeyes refused to go away and calmly knocked down 7 of their 8 free throws in the closing minute to hang on for a 71-62 win.
After their hot shooting in the first half, Ohio State went cold from the field in the second half, only shooting 21% to finish the game 36% from the field and 6 of 17 from outside-the-arc. Fortunately the OSU defense still played tough, holding Northwestern to 35% shooting. Unfortunately while the Buckeyes forced 11 Wildcat turnovers after the break, they couldn’t take advantage and turn those into points. Meanwhile Northwestern picked up their pace a bit and generated 11 points on the fast break after getting none in the first half. Rebounding was pretty much a draw with the Wildcats holding a 47 to 43 edge, 18 to 15 in offensive boards.
Ameryst Alston led the Buckeyes with 30 points, her second game in a row where she hit the 30 point mark. Alston did much of her damage from the charity stripe where she went 14 of 17 to tie the OSU single game mark in made free throws. Senior Martina Ellerbe went out in a style with 13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. Raven Ferguson was the other Buckeye to reach double digits as she added 11 points and 9 rebounds; Ferguson went 3 of 5 from three point range but missed all 12 of her shots from inside the arc. Senior Ashley Adams has had an underwhelming season but her final home game was a good one as she scored 7 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, had 4 blocks, 3 steals, and an assist. Amy Scullion added 2 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists while Darryce Moore added 4 points, 5 rebounds, a block and a steal.
After a five game losing streak, the most important thing about this game was that it was a win and it sent the seniors out with a victory in their final home game. The first half was one of the best that OSU has played this season and made people wonder how this team had a sub-.500 record coming into this game. The second half provided the answer to that as once again the Buckeyes failed to be able to sustain their offense for a full game and in doing so they allowed Northwestern to get back into the game. Fortunately the team stood tough down the stretch and did what was needed in order to get the win. The offensive fade in the second half can probably be contributed at least in part to fatigue, as I’ve mentioned in past recaps, this team is shorthanded and the quick Thursday to Sunday turnarounds has caused them problems. Fortunately the Buckeye defense played tough for the entire game and helped make up for the offenses shooting struggles.
With this win Ohio State snaps its 5 game losing streak and brings their record to 15-15, 5-9 in the Big Ten. While an at-large NCAA tournament berth is pretty much out of the question at this point, at least without the team winning their final two regular season games and making it all the way to the finals of the Big Ten tournament, there is still a lot for OSU to play for. Obviously there is the pride factor but OSU needs to finish above .500 to get a berth in the WNIT and a postseason berth of any type would be a great thing for this team as it would give them additional experience in the postseason and with coach Kevin McGuff’s system. Ohio State is back in action on Thursday when they hit the road to take on Iowa in a game that will be shown on BTN at 7:00pm.