First Thoughts From a 77-61 Win Over Wisconsin
By Tony Gerdeman
The No. 9 Buckeyes (14-0) opened the Big Ten season in style, picking up a comfortable win over the Wisconsin Badgers (4-9) in Madison.
The Badgers are a gritty team, but it was Ohio State who displayed true grit in discarding every Wisconsin run until the Badgers simply had no more runs left in them.
Ohio State led for most of the first half, but when the Badgers took a 27-26 lead with 5:06 to play, the Buckeyes responded with an 8-0 run in the span of 1:29.
Wisconsin closed again, taking a one-point lead with 48 seconds to play in the first half. From that point, however, the Buckeyes went on a 15-0 run spanning well into the second half.
Ohio State built on their lead from that point and closed it out in impressive fashion. It was almost a perfect start to the conference season, and certainly one that the rest of the Big Ten will have to pay attention to.
First Thought - It struck me while watching this game that there is less pressure on Samantha Prahalis than I think most people anticipated this year.
Being the lone senior and the clear team leader, it was thought that this team would live and die with her performances. While that is true to some extent, the type of offense that the Buckeyes run lends itself to just more than one player being a distributor.
With the way Tayler Hill is scoring, Sammy can have an off night and the Buckeyes will still put up enough points to get most wins. Granted her twelve points and eleven assists constitute anything but an off night.
Perhaps the key to all of it, however, is the level of defense that is being played by everybody right now. Defense will always make any slump easier to withstand, and if the Buckeyes continue to hold opponents to under 40% shooting like they did tonight, they will be just fine.
Ohio State forced just eleven turnovers, but they had a hand in every face on the shot release. Wisconsin guard Taylor Wurtz came into this game scoring 16.1 points per game, but a devoted team effort by the Buckeyes held her to ten points on just 4-12 shooting.
Only one Wisconsin starter shot 50% from the field. As much as we talk about the Ohio State offense, and especially the back court, the defense has been as integral to the team's success as any other area this season.
Complementary Thought - Center Ashley Adams is just about the perfect post player for Jim Foster's offense this year. She is always talked about for her passing, but doesn't get enough credit for her ability to finish.
We're not talking layups. She has a great touch in the paint and her ability to hit the short jumper tonight gave Prahalis three or four of her eleven total assists. She has tremendous hands and catches just about every crazy pass Prahalis can get to her.
Adams finished with 14 points on 7-9 shooting, and only a few of those baskets were layups. The pick and roll that they are running with Prahalis and both Adams and Kalpana Beach was deadly tonight. Neither post player needs to continue rolling to the basket as both can hit the pull up jumper. They did that several times tonight, and that's something that they didn't necessarily have that last year with Jantel Lavender.
Finishing Thought - Coming into tonight's game one of the things that I wanted to watch was Amber Stokes' ability to finish around the basket. I've lost track of the times this season that I've watched her father Ronnie Stokes sit in press row and nearly crush his phone in his hands watching his daughter miss layups.
Tonight, however, he was likely very proud of what he was watching. She made all four of her layups in the second half, most of which were contested, and even had a fifth waved off for a charging call. She finished the game with ten points on 4-5 shooting from the field.
Stokes' ability to drive and her athleticism are what make her such a dangerous offensive player. If she's not going to be a consistent finisher, then she is wasting her athleticism. Hopefully tonight was a good sign for the future, because Wisconsin really had no answer for her.
They also had trouble with her defense as she was a one-man full court press at times. She's just a tenacious player who is getting more and more out of the minutes that she's given.
Final Thought - The Buckeyes outscored Wisconsin 39-24 in the second half. The Badgers stuck around in the first half, but clearly Jim Foster didn't want them doing the same in the second half. Ohio State came out early and put this one away before Wisconsin started thinking they actually had a shot.
It was as close to a killer instinct as you will see, and the Buckeyes saw no reason to wait to bring it out. That's the same type of attitude they need to play with the rest of the season, but it will obviously be more difficult to do as the talent gap closes.
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