First Thoughts after Michigan

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Last updated: 03/02/2012 4:18 PM
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Women's Basketball
First Thoughts From a 57-48 Win Over Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament
By Tony Gerdeman

Much in the same way that you don't need to be fast when being chased by a lion—you just need to be faster than the slowest person being chased, you also don't need to shoot all that well to win a basketball game, you only need to shoot better than your opponent.

On Friday, that's where the Buckeyes found themselves. They shot 23-60 (38.3%) from the field, but held the Wolverines to just 19-55 (34.5%) shooting.

Even when the shots weren't falling, the defense was still there. The Buckeyes also blocked five shots and came away with ten steals. They pestered Michigan constantly. Even their free throw defense held the Wolverines to 3-7 (42.9%) shooting.

After losing three straight to the Wolverines over the past two seasons, Ohio State decided to put their defensive foot down and not leave anything to chance. It worked. Good shooting can come and go, but defensive effort is a choice.

First Thought

Before we begin, congratulations are in order for Big Ten Player of the Year Samantha Prahalis, who set the Big Ten career record for assists, breaking the previous record of 892, held by Northwestern's Nancy Kennelly.

She finished the game with five assists, though her seven turnovers are likely what she'll focus on most. She wasn't overly flashy today, but in a grinding game, she tried to instead make the necessary pass.

I wouldn't expect the record to be broken any time soon, and Prahalis will still have a few more games to add on to her total.

Pestering Thought

Amber Stokes, the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year, was given the task of harassing Michigan's second-leading scorer, Courtney Boylan, who came into this game averaging 12.8 points per game.

Boylan finished with just ten points, all of which came in the second half. She shot just 4-11 from the field and was hesitant on offense for much of the afternoon.

But it wasn't just Boylan that Stokes terrorized. She was everywhere. Her help defense forced bad shots, and even saw her block a shot. She picked off two steals, including one at the 1:40 mark in the second half when Ohio State was up by eight points and Michigan was desperate to score.

She was constant motion, defensively and offensively, and even though she finished just 2-9 from the field, she was far too valuable to sit for more than a few minutes in this game.

Opening Thought

To start the game, it seemed like Prahalis was a bit passive on offense, wanting instead to get her teammates involved. In a tournament game, that's a pretty good idea. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes couldn't hit much of anything in the first half, but they also couldn't stop firing away.

They had open looks for most of the first half, and for much of the game, but the shots just weren't falling early on. With Prahalis and Tayler Hill combining to shoot 3-11 in the first half, and with Tayler having some foul trouble, Jim Foster turned to freshman Raven Ferguson, who had some positive moments.

The key for the Buckeyes was to simply let their abilities take over. There are only so many open shots that can be missed before they start falling in. Hill went 6-8 in the second half, and 2-3 from three-point range as proof of that.

Present and Future Thought

Freshman forward Kalpana Beach has been one of the most athletic Buckeyes since the moment she suited up for the Scarlet and Gray, and we saw a great deal of that ability in this game.

She grabbed seven rebounds in just 23 minutes and scored 12 points on 5-11 shooting. The fact that she got off eleven shots is pretty remarkable considering she hasn't been scoring much of late.

She's hardly ever a focal point of this offense, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have her moments. She can score from anywhere in the paint and her constant movement allows the passers on the team to find her.

Her ability to finish, however, is what will eventually make her a consistent scorer. With her ability to shoot from fifteen feet and in, her athleticism on the offensive glass, and the way she moves around the basket, she will be a very solid scorer down the road.

Final Thought

After Ohio State went on their 11-0 run, Michigan answered with a 10-0 run of their own. With the Buckeye lead cut to six points, Ohio State decided to attack the basket, and they did it successfully.

When they needed baskets, they got as close to the basket as they could, in order to ensure their success. It was a smart move for a team that didn't do much with their jump shot.

However, it was still their defense that secured the win.

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