Buckeyes Scathe Cougars to Enter Big Ten Play Undefeated
By Ben Axelrod
The No. 11 Ohio State women’s basketball team (13-0) won’t open conference play until Dec. 30 , but when it does so, it will be as the only undefeated team in the Big Ten.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The Buckeyes’ latest victory came by way of a 79-57 win over Washington State (6-6) on Thursday. By beating the Cougars, OSU closed out an out-of-conference schedule that saw the Buckeyes get off to their best start in program history. In doing so they advanced from being a team that was unranked at the start of the season to one that is now on the cusp of being ranked inside The Associated Press’ Top 10.
“My team’s had a chip on their shoulder since the day they walked in the gym,” OSU coach Jim Foster said. “I don’t see it being removed.”
That’s not to say that OSU’s perfect out of conference record didn’t come without any difficulties, and for at least one half on Thursday night, the Cougars did their best to see that the Buckeyes didn’t make it to Madison next Friday unscathed.
WSU led for the majority of its opening half against OSU behind a pair of 10-point efforts from Carly Noyes and Tia Presley. The Cougars’ effort, however, never translated into anything more than a six-point advantage as WSU failed to take advantage of OSU guard Samantha Prahalis picking up her second foul with 10:54 remaining before intermission.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Foster attributed his team’s success with Prahalis off the court to the play of freshman guard Maleeka Kynard.
“We watched Kynard every day. What she did today didn’t surprise us,” Foster said. “Think about what that kid’s had to do. Kid walked in October 9th and defensively she’s got to guard Sammy Prahalis or Tayler Hill if they’re playing point, and offensively she got to play Amber Stokes. That’s a nightmare.”
Prahalis left the game with the Buckeyes’ trailing by two only to return with 4:57 left in the first half and the Cougars’ lead cut to one. With Prahalis back in the game, the Buckeyes took control, thanks in large part to the defensive effort from Stokes.
With the score tied at 35 with less than a minute remaining before halftime, Stokes stripped Presley and raced down court to convert as she was fouled. After making her free throw, the Gahanna-product then forced an offensive foul on Rosetta Adzasu. To WSU turnover gave OSU freshman Kynard the opportunity to make two free throws and give the Buckeyes a five-point advantage at intermission.
“Amber energized us in that first half,” Prahalis said. “Getting them steals, getting foul shots. I think that energized us.”
OSU’s momentum carried into a second-half that saw the Buckeyes open up on a 30-12 run and ultimately outscore the Cougars 39-22.
“The second half, we just came out and built off that,” Prahalis said. “We were a lot more active.”
Prahalis finished with 20 points and 10 assists, her third double-double of the season. Hill led the Buckeyes with 21 points, marking the ninth game this season that the Minnesota native has scored 20-plus points.
The Buckeyes will now head home for the holidays with an eight-day layoff before their conference opener against the Badgers. Despite their short stoppage in the schedule, don’t expect OSU to be spending too much time away from the basketball court.
“Basketball never stops,” Prahalis said.
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