Fifty-percent of Ohio State’s star guard tandem was more than enough for the Buckeyes to down Indiana and set up a showdown for first place in the Big Ten.
Tayler Hill made a career-high seven three-pointers on eight attempts as she scored 27 points to lead the ninth-ranked Buckeyes to a 75-54 win Thursday night in Columbus.
Ohio State played without star point guard Samantha Prahalis as the team’s only senior sat out with what was described as flu-like symptoms. She warmed up with the team and began the evening on the bench but did not remain there for long. She had retreated to the home locker room before the first media timeout came at the 15:21 mark and never returned.
Head coach Jim Foster was not sure until the start of the game if he would have her at his disposal.
“She didn’t participate in shootaround this morning and then did some things through the course of the day to try to be ready but she was just too drained to be able to go,” he said. “There was no juice there.”
Her teammates held up fine without her, although there were some choppy segments in the first half.
Ohio State (23-3, 10-3) looked twice like it might run Indiana out of the gym in the first half, but the Hoosiers did not fold their tents either time.
The Buckeyes established an 18-4 lead 13-0 run that featured a pair of Amber Stokes layups, a three-pointer and a fastbreak layup by Tayler Hill and a pair of baskets by Ashley Adams.
The Hoosiers cut that lead to nine only to see the Buckeyes rip off seven in a row to take a 30-14 lead that would be their largest of the first half.
That 16-point advantage at the 5:50 mark would be whittled to seven over the next 4:55, however as Indiana scored 11 of the next 13 points in the contest.
Maleeka Kynard pushed the advantage back to nine with a steal and fast-break layup for Ohio State with 20 seconds to go in the half, but Indiana’s Sasha Chaplin closed out the scoring for the half with a pair of free throws with 3.2 seconds left that made it 34-27 at the break.
The lead hovered around nine for the first five minutes of the second half until the Buckeyes blew it open with a 17-4 spurt that included three layups on easy runouts as OSU guards got behind the Indiana defense.
Hill concluded the sequence with a three-pointer that gave the Buckeyes a 60-38 lead, their first advantage of greater than 20 points on the night. They cruised from there to the delight of most of the 3,884 in attendance at Value City Arena.
“It got tight and we dropped our heads and pouted and then we realized the ball was right there but then it was too late because you dropped your head for a second,” Indiana head coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. “This is a game of freedom. You’re going to make mistakes, but keep your eye on the ball because you might get it.”
The Buckeyes shot 51.9 percent (14 for 27) in the first half but hurt themselves with 14 turnovers. They shored up both areas in the second half, making 18 of 31 shots (58.1 percent) and giving the ball away only eight times.
“I think in the first half people were trying to make plays,” Hill said. “Instead of reversing the ball we had people trying to be a Sam instead of making the simple plays. If we just make the simple plays, the layups and open shots will come.”
Freshman Raven Ferguson started in place of Prahalis and scored six points while handing out three assists. She also had five turnovers.
Stokes picked up some of the slack as she tallied 14 points and handed out a career-high seven assists.
Freshman forward Kalpana Beach also stepped up as she scored 13 points for her first double-figure scoring output since the end of November. Beach also grabbed eight rebounds while making 6 of 7 shots from the field.
Aulani Sinclair led Indiana with 23 points. She was 9 for 17 from the field including 4 for 8 from three-point range. Quaneisha McCurty added 11 points for the Hoosiers (5-21, 0-13).
The Buckeyes’ victory set up a clash with Penn State on Monday night for first place in the Big Ten. Earlier Thursday, the Lady Lions improved to 21-5 overall and 11-3 in league play with a 74-63 defeat of Purdue that knocked the Boilermakers out of a virtual three-way at the top of the standings.
Ohio State travels to Happy Valley but will not get a return trip from the Lions as the regular season winds down.
Despite knowing such a matchup was possible for Monday night, Hill said the Buckeyes maintained their focus on the last-place Hoosiers.
“Before the game we weren’t worried about Penn State,” she said. “They didn’t come up, but that’s our focus now. That’s the next step.”
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