Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
As the shot clock was winding down, Indiana defenders scrambled toward Ohio State (11-8, 1-5 Big Ten) women’s basketball’s senior guard Tayler Hill. With sweat coming down her forehead, and fatigue seemingly overcoming her, Hill nailed the 3-pointer, despite missing her first five attempts. The shot extended OSU’s already commanding lead to 25 en route to the Buckeyes’ 68-45 victory against Indiana at the Schottenstein Center Jan. 17.
Hill, who was named to the Wooden Award Women’s Midseason Top 20 list Tuesday, finished with 15 points on the night, but shot just 4-for-11 from the floor, including two missed fast break layups.
Despite the struggles, Hill said she was pleased with the game’s outcome.
“It’s a good win for us,” Hill said. “We needed this win and we just need to stay on this path.”
With the Buckeyes coming back from a tough loss to then-No. 12 Purdue in triple overtime – a game Hill sat out due to illness – her teammates were happy to have their leader back even if she wasn’t 100 percent healthy.
“This is going to sound corny, but I just love playing with Tayler,” said junior center Darryce Moore. “Yeah, I’m happy that she’s back.”
Sometimes, a little encouragement from her teammates is all Moore needs.
“I didn’t really have that much confidence in myself, but then one of my teammates like Tayler tells me that ‘I believe in you,’ that boosts my confidence and drives me the way I play,” Moore said.
Coach Jim Foster said Hill was not herself due to illness but was impressed and proud of how his star player stepped up defensively and did the dirty work.
“Based on her 3-point field goal, she didn’t have any legs,” Foster said. “Given the defense she played on the (Aulani) Sinclair kid, you have to give her a lot of credit. Literally, that kid hasn’t … I don’t know if she has eaten in five or six days.”
Sinclair, who averages more than 18 points a game, scored just four point on 2-for-15 shooting.
Foster said Hill let her attributes other than scoring show.
“As a result, the other team’s leading scorer (Sinclair) struggled, and our players got easier shots,” Foster said.
The Buckeyes have struggled on the court, going from No. 8 in the nation on Jan. 2 to being unranked, as injuries and illnesses to key players have deterred them from their path. Losing last year’s Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in redshirt senior guard Amber Stokes for four weeks due to a sprained left knee has been detrimental, but Foster said his squad still has the tools to be successful.
“(Stokes) was a catalyst for a lot of what we do defensively,” Foster said. “Tonight for example, we were able to put Tayler on Sinclair, and I thought she did a great job. But when Amber is healthy, we are able to put her on the ball and all of a sudden, there is a lot of pressure on the ball.”
Though the Buckeyes haven’t gotten off to the start they would have liked, Foster reiterated that his team cannot focus on the past.
“(We) can’t lose sight of the fact that it’s about today,” Foster said. “There is no such thing as a night where you win four games.”
The Buckeyes next play Penn State Sunday. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.