Late surge from OSU guards gives Buckeyes win over Illini
By Ben Axelrod
With 11 minutes left and the No. 10 Ohio State women’s basketball team (19-1, 6-1) clinging to a five point lead, OSU guard Tayler Hill was whistled for a flagrant foul that gave Illinois (6-14, 0-7) two free throws, possession of the ball, and potential momentum.
Photo by Jim Davidson
To say that Hill merely made up for the foul would be an understatement.
The junior guard scored 26 points and hit what would go on to be the game-winning shot as the Buckeyes defeated the Fighting Illini 96-84 on Sunday at Value City Arena.
Illinois, who is winless thus far in the Big Ten season, managed to keep things close with the Buckeyes through the first 35 minutes of the game, until Hill’s 3-point shot with five minutes remaining broke a 76-76 tie.
Hill’s 3-pointer sparked a 16-6 OSU run to put the game out of reach. The late Buckeyes surge was aided by 10 points from OSU senior guard Samantha Prahalis, who scored 28 points and recorded six assists on Sunday.
“When it gets a little close, I feel like our leadership does come up,” Prahalis said. “It’s almost like an unsaid thing. You know, we just got to get a good shot or get in our spots we like to shoot it or hit someone wide-open for a shot.”
The eventual game-winner came just six minutes after the Minnesota-product was whistled for a flagrant foul after she made contact with an Illinois defender as she tried to swing the ball through at the top of the OSU key.
Hill disagreed with the call.
“She was in my space, I tried to swing through, I didn’t try to elbow her on purpose,” Hill said, clearly annoyed. “If I tried to elbow her on purpose, people would have known.”
OSU coach Jim Foster wasn’t a fan of the call either.
“I understand elbows, but within the framework of your space, if you’re moving the ball from one place to another...if it hits somebody, it hits somebody,” Foster said. “I don’t know what a player’s supposed to do to protect the ball or themselves if they’re trying to pivot.”
The controversial call actually appeared to light a fuse under the Buckeyes, who went on an 8-2 run after Illinois guard Amber Moore split the pair of free throws she was awarded. OSU didn’t manage to maintain the momentum, however, and a 17-7 Illinois run knotted the score up at 76.
“Everybody that comes to play us is going to play hard and give their best effort” Hill said. “Illinois did a good job today. I think their coaching staff did a good job preparing them for the game, they played hard. They came out and played the best they can. I give them credit.”
Photo by Jim Davidson
Aside from a 23-point effort from junior forward Karisma Penn, the Illini also benefitted from a closely-called game that put OSU in the bonus with more than 11 minutes left in the game. With a combined total of 39 fouls being called on Sunday, Prahalis said that the way that the game was officiated got under her skin.
“It stopped momentum, it was kind of annoying because every time they called a foul it would stop our momentum a little bit and the game just got choppy,” Prahalis said. “It definitely impacted the game a little.”
Foster said that the game’s pace, coupled with the stiff challenge from the last-place Illini, was just another reminder that there aren’t any easy games in the Big Ten season.
“They’re as athletic as anybody in the country,” Foster said. “We had to force the tempo to create turnovers. I don’t think we did a good job of that.”
After having won three games in the past week, the Buckeyes return to action on Thursday when they’ll hit the road to face another last place team in Indiana (5-14, 0-6).
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