In a season of disappointments and inconsistency, the Ohio State women's basketball team defended their home turf to give their seniors a victory in their final home game. Sunday's win over Northwestern put an end to season-high five-game losing streak for the Buckeyes, who had fallen five games under .500 in Big Ten play and had not won a game in February.
Ohio State, which began a string of four straight games against ranked opponents with back-to-back blowout losses to Purdue and Penn State, continued its sloppy play the day after Valentine's Day with a 70-49 loss to No. 25 Michigan State in East Lansing. The Buckeyes were dominated on the glass, getting outrebounded 57-33, and shot just 31 percent for the game.
"In general, our effort was really poor," Ohio State Head Coach Kevin McGuff said. "Michigan State played harder and was the tougher team today, clearly. Specifically, we were really bad on the boards. They were very aggressive, and we didn't have a lot of fight and push-back."
Sophomore point guard Ameryst Alston scored a game 25 points, but was just 11-32 from the field. Sophomore guard Cait Craft added 11 and was the only other Buckeye in double-figures in a game that came after a six-day break for the team. The Spartans' balanced attack found four players in double-figures.
The Buckeyes woes continued this past Friday night at Value City Arena, as the team blew a nine-point second half lead to lose to 17th-ranked Nebraska, 67-59. McGuff's squad was again undone on the boards, surrendering nineteen offensive rebounds to the Cornhuskers. The game ended with Nebraska on a 23-7 run over the final eight minutes, and dropped Ohio State to 4-9 in conference play.
"For 35 minutes we played well and really competed," McGuff said. "In the last five, it wasn't that we weren't trying. We just made too many mistakes. This one should hurt because we had a real chance to beat a great team but we didn't finish it out."
Alston scored 31 to lead all scorers, but the Buckeyes couldn't overcome a seven minute scoring drought, and dropped a seventh game at home for the first time since the 1996-97 season.
Senior Day came on Sunday for the Buckeyes, their final home game of the season, against a Northwestern squad with an identical 4-9 record in the Big Ten. On the back of a twenty point halftime lead, Ohio State held on for a 71-62 victory that allowed Ashley Adams, Aleksandra Dobranic, Martina Ellerbe, Darryce Moore and Amy Scullion to go out on top in their final game at Value City Arena. Adams, Ellerbe, and Moore are all seniors, while Dobranic is a graduate student and Scullion, a redshirt junior, has opted to forego her senior season in favor of medical school.
"These seniors are a great bunch of kids," McGuff said. "I've really enjoyed getting to know them and coach them. They have done anything that I've asked of them this year and they've done some great things to really help point the program in the right direction and I'll always be appreciative of that."
Alston led all scorers for the third consecutive game, and notched her second straight 30-point performance thanks to a 14-17 day at the free throw line. Ellerbe added 13 points, and junior guard Raven Ferguson chipped in 11 off the bench. The win improved the Buckeyes' mark to 5-9 in the Big Ten and 15-15 for the year.
Ohio State will conclude the regular season on the road, traveling to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes on Friday, followed by a trip to Minnesota to wrap up the conference schedule on Sunday against the Golden Gophers.