Women's basketball: New-look Buckeyes pull away for win
Ohio State guard Raven Ferguson, right, works against Minnesota guard Shayne Mullaney during the first half of the Big Ten tournament first-round game.
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — The change in Ohio State had begun to surface three games before the Buckeyes met Minnesota last night in the opening round of the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament.
A team that had played itself into the first day of the tournament for the first time in 11 seasons had reached its fill of unhappy endings with a last-second loss to the Golden Gophers on Feb. 21 in Value City Arena. So the ninth-seeded Buckeyes won the final three games of the regular season to set up a rematch.
The new Ohio State repaid eighth-seeded Minnesota with a dominant 58-47 defensive spanking at the Sears Centre Arena. The win sets up a quarterfinal game against top-seeded Penn State tonight.
“It was a physical game,” freshman guard Ameryst Alston said. The Buckeyes (18-12) closed the first half with an 8-0 run and outscored the Gophers 19-4 to start the second. They did so without fouling, which was part of their revival as well as the Gophers’ downfall.
“It’s being aggressive and being smart at the same time,” said Alston, who had five points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals. “And it’s staying in front of the ball.”
Ohio State didn’t do that in the first half against Minnesota’s Rachel Banham, the Big Ten’s leading scorer. Banham hit four three-pointers before the break and scored 14 points. The Gophers (18-13) led 25-16 with 4:05 left in the half when the momentum shifted.
“Defense was a starting point for us,” Ohio State guard Tayler Hill said. “We knew we had to hard switch Rachel Banham because any inch we gave her, she’s a good enough shooter to knock that down. So I think in the last five, four minutes of the first half, we started to do a pretty good job. In the second half, we did an even better job.”
Minnesota couldn’t find an open look, and the misses were accompanied by turnovers. Hill began the second-half run with a three-pointer. Raven Ferguson followed with an inside score but collapsed to the court after rolling her right ankle. She had to be helped to the locker room with 18:11 to play and Ohio State ahead 29-27. Ferguson returned three minutes later and didn’t come out again.
“When I went down, I knew I was going to come back,” she said. “I really wanted to play this game. So they tied it up, taped it up and changed my shoes, and I went back out there.”
Coach Jim Foster inserted Ferguson into the lineup at power forward in the second half of that regular-season loss to Minnesota. Combining her grit with Alston, Hill, Amber Stokes and Ashley Adams has made the Buckeyes dangerous again.
“About 15 minutes into the first half, we had a timeout and we just went over some things,” Foster said.What was said, worked.Hill finished with 25 points and Adams had 14. Banham ended up with 20 for Minnesota.