Women's basketball: Buckeyes hold on to win season’s final home game

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Chris Russell | Dispatch
Ohio State guard Ameryst Alston gets two of her 30 points against Northwestern’s Nia Coffey.

The Ohio State women’s basketball team needed about a half-dozen wooden stakes to do away with a five-game losing streak yesterday afternoon at Value City Arena.

The Northwestern Wildcats (14-13, 4-10 Big Ten) spent the final 10 minutes of the game doggedly trying to rise from a double-digit deficit before finally succumbing 71-62 in front of an energized crowd of 6,670.

The afternoon marked the final home game for five OSU players — seniors Ashley Adams, Martina Ellerbe and Darryce Moore, redshirt junior Amy Scullion and graduate student Aleksandra Dobranic.

The late drama might have been more than they wanted, but the victory left them all smiling.

“It was really emotional,” said Ellerbe, who scored 13 points. “It’s been four years that we played here. To know that this was the last game we’re going to have in this gym, it was like a crazy thought. But we played really well and we played for each other.”

Sophomore Ameryst Alston did all she could to give her teammates a sweet memory. She scored 30 points, 18 in the first half, to spark the Buckeyes (15-15, 5-9) to a 41-21 lead.

“The seniors were the most important,” Alston said. “We focused on the game. But we really wanted to get that win and make the seniors go out right.”

The Buckeyes built an 18-0 edge in points off turnovers during what turned into a nightmarish first half for the young Wildcats.

“We just buried ourselves in the first half,” Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said. “We dug a huge crater. We tried to keep fighting back. We needed a third 20-minute period.

“Ohio State, I thought, played really well in the first half. They shot it well. They attacked us well. They defended us well. Once we got our feet under us, it was a little too late.”

The Buckeyes clicked in every aspect of those first 20 minutes. Alston credited the pace and the early work on the glass for the big lead.

“We all were on the same page,” she said. “I thought we did a great job of offensive rebounding and getting more possessions. That’s how we were able to come out that way.”

But the second half remained, and a season that has included a wagon load of OSU scoring droughts still had one more trek through the Mojave Desert. After the break, Northwestern extended its defense to full court and the Buckeyes began missing shots.

“They started to press to try and speed the game up just to create more possessions,” OSU coach Kevin McGuff said. “It kind of worked. It sped us up. We got good shots through that but we didn’t make them.”

The Buckeyes were 6 of 29 from the field in the second half, and that allowed Northwestern to close the gap from 24 points to 64-59 with 53 seconds left.

That’s when Ellerbe, Cait Craft and Alston planted the final wooden stakes by making 7 of 8 free throws.

“I think we had the right focus and did what we had to do to finish the game out, although it was a little raggedy in the second half,” McGuff said.

jmassie@dispatch.com

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