First Thoughts From an 80-71 Win Over Purdue
By Tony Gerdeman
With a slot atop the Big Ten standings on the line, the #10 Buckeyes (22-3, 9-3) let the #16 Boilermakers (19-6, 9-3) lead for a good portion of the game before finally asserting themselves and taking control when it mattered most.
Ohio State's largest lead was just three points for the first 36 minutes and 26 seconds, and it had been nearly 30 minutes since it was that large.
Purdue grabbed the lead with 9:18 to play in the first half and didn't relinquish it until the 14:15 mark of the second half.
The Boilermakers built an eight-point lead only to see Ohio State go on a 13-5 run in just over three minutes to tie the game at 50-50.
It was a run that looked like it may have taken too much out of the Buckeyes. A free throw from Samantha Prahalis gave the Buckeyes a one-point lead, but Purdue came right back and took a three-point lead.
Ohio State answered back and tied it, only to see Purdue build their lead back up to five points with 8:33 to play. It could have been an early dagger for most teams, but the Buckeyes were not going to be one of those teams.
Ohio State kept answering back and kept answering back until the Boilermakers no longer had any questions to ask. That's when the Buckeyes took over the game and Purdue decided they had finally had enough.
It was a very good win, especially coming off a last-second loss at Illinois earlier in the week.
If it wasn't for Amber Stokes in the first half, there wouldn't have been an Ohio State guard who played well in the first twenty minutes.
Prahalis and Tayler Hill combined for eight points in the first half, matching Stokes' contributions, but they didn't do it nearly as efficiently.
Stokes attacked the basket from the baseline with and without the ball, making herself terribly difficult to defend, and leading to foul trouble for the Boilermakers in the first half.
She knows she needs to improve on her free throw percentage, and her 1-5 performance in this game shows that. But that doesn't mean she should ever stop attacking the basket, especially when it's something that she does so well. She scored 14 points on 6-10 shooting, so clearly she should stay aggressive.
She had trouble finishing earlier in the season, but has gotten to be very effective at it over the second half of the season. With another offseason to work on her shot, there's no reason to think that she can be a 75% shooter next season.
Her range continues to get extended as well, and that's not going to change at this point. She hit a three-pointer late in the second half in this game, which she needs to do when she's being left so open. However, she is still a reluctant shooter for good reason.
The offseason is where the work begins towards building her confidence.
Purdue did a tremendous job defending Hill and Prahalis for much of the game. They were fronting both of them away from the ball, and harassing them when they were on the ball. It was this constant defense that forced Hill into 1-5 shooting and Prahalis 2-7 shooting in the first half.
You can only keep these two players down for so long, however. Prahalis scored 21 points in the second half and Hill added nine.
Combined, Purdue only outscored them in the second half by four points.
The Boilermaker guards absolutely won the first half, especially when you consider Brittany Rayburn's 5-5 performance in a foul-trouble shortened first half.
But the Buckeye backcourt gathered itself like it has done all season long and kept pushing and pushing until the Boilermakers finally fell over.
I always enjoy watching the way center Ashley Adams is used in this offense. When the offense runs through her at the top of the key, it reminds me of pick-up football, and she's all-time quarterback.
She gets the ball and then stands at the top of the circle looking for open receivers, usually finding one cutting to the basket.
Adams isn't always asked to score in the post, though she can. Her value on offense is her passing, and it continues to be an effective weapon even against defenses that know it's coming.
Her passing then becomes even more effective when she hits the occasional 18-foot jumper because the defense has to run out on her, which makes defenders more worried about helping out on vacated areas than sticking to their man.
While we're talking about her offensive game--she scored 13 points on 5-7 shooting, let's not forget that she grabbed seven rebounds, handed out four assists, blocked five shots, had a steal, and only turned it over once.
For a center who has much of the offense running through her, only turning it over once against one of the conference's best defenses cannot be overstated.
I wouldn't be surprised to see her used in the post more next year, but she's in the perfect spot right now for this three-guard offense.
When a team struggles like the Buckeyes did today, there are obviously areas of concern. One of those areas was the lack of much post defense.
Purdue scored 38 points in the paint, and many of those points came on easy baskets. Yes, Adams blocked five shots, but obviously a lot more shots got through than didn't. It was definitely not all her fault, as all of Ohio State's post players had issues with Purdue's aggression down low.
Another area of concern on the night was the lack of closeout speed on the perimeter shooters. Purdue was only 4-11 from three-point range, but on most of those shots, there weren't many hands going up on defense.
Purdue's lack of shooting is probably what saved the Buckeyes, considering Ohio State was outrebounded 41-24. The Boilermakers had 19 offensive rebounds on 32 misses shots.
That means even when they missed, they got another shot nearly two-thirds of the time.
Purdue didn't even shoot that poorly. They finished 29-61 (47.5%), so even though the Ohio State defense struggled on the night, you have to give all of the credit to their offense.
The only way the Buckeyes could have won this game was to outscore them via their offense, and that's exactly what they did.
Sometimes defense doesn't matter. Just ask Purdue, who was giving up about 24 points per game fewer than they gave to Ohio State.
There is now a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten. Ohio State, Purdue and Penn State are all 9-3 in conference play. The Buckeyes only play Purdue and Penn State once this season. They will meet the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley next Monday. Nebraska is currently sitting at 8-3 in conference play.
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