After suffering back-to-back road losses at Wisconsin and Purdue, the Ohio State women’s basketball team returned home to Columbus hoping the friendlier confines of the Schott would help them get back to winning. The Big Ten scheduling gods were not going to make that easy though as standing in the way was 9th ranked Penn State who had already defeated OSU 66-42 in Happy Valley back in January.
Things started off well for Ohio State as a Darryce Moore layup opened the scoring and the Buckeyes got up to an early 7-4 just over two minutes into the game. Penn State would use a 9 to 4 run to change that and take a 13-9 lead with just over fifteen minutes remaining in the half. The Buckeyes would narrow that gap to one only to see the Nittany Lions quickly open the lead back to 5, 19-14, near the midpoint of the half. Down 24-19 with just over eight minutes before the break, Ohio State got a spark from three points by Amy Scullion and Martina Ellerbe and used that momentum to go on a 14 to 2 run that gave the Buckeyes a 33-26 lead with just under five minutes to go in the half. Despite all the momentum on their side, Ohio State suddenly found themselves going cold from the field and Penn State responded by chipping away at the lead and then making a layup just before the buzzer to go into the locker room leading 38-36.
OSU’s cold shooting continued at the start of the second half and the Buckeyes quickly found themselves in a double-digit hole, 47-36, just four minutes into the second period. Five straight points by the Buckeyes pulled them back within six but they still couldn’t find their shot and the Nittany Lions used a 10 to 1 run to put themselves back up by double digits and put the game out of reach as PSU would coast the rest of the way to a 74-54 win.
Ohio State started out shooting a not great 38% for the first fifteen minutes of the game before missing their final 7 shots of the first half to go 30% from the field for the first half but a very nice 4 of 10 from three point range. Unfortunately as bad as the first half shooting was, the second half was worse as the Buckeyes shot 25% from the field and 1 of 13 from three after the break. OSU’s ball movement left a lot to be desired as they only recorded 9 assists while committing 21 turnovers. Defensive the Buckeyes forced 18 turnovers but allowed Penn State to go 49% from the field and 46% (5 of 11) from beyond the arc. The brightest spot for OSU was probably that they won the rebounding battle 40 to 38.
Ameryst Alston and Raven Ferguson led the Buckeyes with 16 points each. Both were also a force on the boards with Ferguson grabbing 9 rebounds while Alston grabbed 8; the similarities in their stat lines continued as they each recorded 2 assists while committing 4 turnovers. No other Buckeye would reach double digits in scoring and Amy Scullion and Martina Ellerbe were the only other players to make more than one basket.
After struggling for much of the season with having to battle back from cold starts, Ohio State got off to a pretty good start today and held a nice lead over a top ten team late in the first half when things pretty much fell apart. Unfortunately atrocious shooting halves are not unusual for the Buckeyes this year but this one was even more frustrating as OSU was leading a top ten team in a game where a win would have made it very, very hard for the selection committee to not put them in the NCAA tournament baring a complete disaster down the stretch. Instead OSU is now on a three game losing streak and is in a shooting slump as they have not shot well in any of those losses.
After last week’s loss to Wisconsin I comment on how Ohio State really struggles in Sunday games and that it was potentially due to fatigue thanks to the shorter turnaround time from the Thursday game. This game provided more evidence of that. While the poor shooting is may be a mental thing considering the Buckeyes also struggled to make shots against Purdue on Thursday, OSU definitely seems to be showing signs of fatigue on defense. After allowing Wisconsin to score far more than their season average last Sunday, OSU limited Purdue to only about 30% shooting and forced the Boilermakers to do their damage from the charity strip. In this one the Buckeyes once again struggled defensively and the result was Penn State shooting nearly 50% from the field.
With a 14-13 overall record and a 4-7 conference record, Ohio State desperately needs to snap their losing streak if they want any hope of an NCAA tournament bid. The good news is that the Buckeyes will get some extra time to rest and work on issues as they do not play again until Saturday. The bad news is that their next game is at Michigan State; the Spartans have already beaten OSU in Columbus and are a very tough defensive team which is not what you want to see when you are trying to get out of a shooting slump.