Buckeyes overcome slow start to earn passing grade in win over Southern Utah
By Ben Axelrod
Photo by Jim Davidson
A day ago, Ohio State (12-0) point guard Samantha Prahalis said that playing two games in as many days would be a good test for her team’s focus. After beating their second opponent in 24 hours by at least 30 point with an 88-50 win over Southern Utah on Tuesday, it’d be hard to argue that the Buckeyes didn’t pass their test, although OSU guard Tayler Hill said that it didn’t exactly happen with flying colors.
“If I had to give it like a letter grade, it’d probably be like a B-minus,” Hill said after the game. “The first half we didn’t come out as strong as we should’ve.”
Hill, who scored 25 points in the Buckeyes’ 88-58 win over Charlotte, again led OSU in scoring on Tuesday as she put up 24 points against the Thunderbirds. Despite his leading scorer’s tough grading scale, OSU coach Jim Foster was more generous when it came to evaluating his team’s performance.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“That’s reflective of her pursuit of academics,” Foster said of Hill’s seemingly harsh grade for a 38-point win. “If you told me that we’d have a game where (Kalpana) Beach would go 1-for-5, (Ashley) Adams would go 0-for-3, score one point and have two rebounds, and Sammy would have an off night shooting it, and we’d score 88 points, I’d think that that says a lot about the group and the team.”
Hill’s critical assessment most likely was the result of a less-than-inspired opening eight minutes of OSU basketball on Tuesday. With 12 minutes left in the first half, the Buckeyes found themselves trailing Southern Utah, 15-13, before a 25-10 OSU run allowed the Buckeyes to take a 38-25 lead into intermission.
“I like how hard that team plays. They don’t try to do things they can’t do. They’re big strong kids,” Foster said of Southern Utah. “A little bit different than the style that we’ve been playing against and I think it took a while for us to adjust to it.”
Once OSU did adjust to the Thunderbirds style of play, the rest seemed to take care of itself. A highlight reel worthy between the legs pass from Prahalis led to a lay-up from junior guard Amber Stokes that capped a 16-5 run for the Buckeyes and stretched OSU’s advantage to 24 points within the first five minutes of the second half.
Suffering through a 4-for-14 shooting night, Prahalis still managed to join Hill, Stokes, Darryce Moore, and Raven Ferguson as Buckeyes to score at least nine points on Tuesday. Despite her off-night from the field, OSU’s lone senior found other ways to affect the game, dishing out seven assists, tallying five steals, and tying for the team lead in rebounds with six.
“Those numbers are absolutely terrific,” Foster said. “For the smallest player on our team to tie for the lead in rebounding, to be aggressive in the passing lanes, I just think it’s how much she’s grown as a player. Her effectiveness doesn’t cease.”
The Buckeyes will practice on Wednesday before playing their third game in four days when they host Washington State in their final out-of-conference game of the regular season on Thursday. Stokes said that the Cougars could help prepare OSU for conference play, which begins on Dec. 30.
“They’re a pretty good team,” Stokes said. “We just got to be energized for every game. If the team’s not all that good, if the team is good, we got to play hard every day, every time.”
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