Behind a strong rebounding effort and intense, breakneck pace, the No. 7 Ohio State women’s basketball team (2-2) defeated Wagner (0-3) in dominating fashion, 106-47.
For the first time this season, the Buckeyes outrebounded their opponent, commanding a 60-30 advantage on the boards. OSU has struggled to maintain a strong inside presence, even getting outrebounded by Belmont 53-34 in an 84-56 victory. Junior forward Shayla Cooper led OSU with 12 rebounds, 10 of which came in the first half.
“Even though it was an inferior opponent, our intensity and effort was way better than it was in the last game,” OSU coach Kevin McGuff said. “We had a lot of people really, really competing.”
OSU dictated the flow of the game, winning the turnover battle 23-15. The Buckeyes’ turnovers were due more to sloppiness and laziness by the offense rather than intense defense by Wagner, as evidenced in the 13-0 advantage in steals. On the flip side, Wagner buckled under swarming full-court press defense and half-court traps by OSU.
Senior guard Ameryst Alston and sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell, with 26 and 24 points, respectively, led the Buckeyes in scoring for the third time this season. Alston tacked on eight rebounds and four assists as the lead facilitator.
The Buckeyes played without starting senior guard Cait Craft, held out due to an ankle injury, and redshirt freshman guard Kianna Holland, who missed her second game after tweaking her knee in practice. Neither injury is suspected to be serious, as each were held out for precautionary reasons and will be considered day-to-day moving forward.
Sophomore guard Asia Doss started in Craft’s place scoring six points, while freshman guard Kaylan Pugh took full advantage of the opportunity for more minutes, scoring 18 points, corralling 10 rebounds and pushing the pace at every opportunity. Previously, Pugh played 18 minutes in two games, totaling just three points.
“I thought Kayla did great and she played really hard. She does that, she plays with great intensity and she got a lot of points in transition,” McGuff said.
Wagner, a team antsy to shoot from range, took 36 three-pointers, hitting on just nine. In the first quarter alone, the Seahawks hoisted up 13 threes compared to just two shots inside the line. At the half, Wagner had scored just one 2-point basket.
Interior rotation: A work in progress
While the starting lineup is set, the rotation of interior players remains ever-changing. Cooper and sophomore forward Alexa Hart started for the Buckeyes as the two forwards, as they have in each game.
But beyond them, a myriad of post players have played, fighting to earn more minutes.
Redshirt junior center Lisa Blair and redshirt freshman forward Makayla Waterman played seven and 18 minutes off the bench, respectively, with Waterman scoring the first points of her collegiate career on Saturday. Thus far this season, Blair and Waterman have played the most minutes of any backup forwards or centers.
Redshirt junior forward Kalpana Beach and freshman center Theresa Ekhelar each played, totalling six and 10 minutes, respectively.
Neither Beach nor Ekhelar have played meaningful minutes in a competitive game yet this season, but as the Buckeyes search for improved rebounding, they might earn important future minutes.
Behind Wagner’s bench sat a large contingent of fans wearing personalized Seahawks shirts with No. 12 stitched on the fronts. When the announcer introduced the starters, senior guard Jordyn Peck earned a cheer equally as loud as any OSU player.
After the game, Wagner coach Lisa Cermignano said the game was scheduled so Peck, playing her final season, could play a game close to home in front of her hometown friends and family. Peck grew up and went to school in Shaker Heights, Ohio.
“(OSU) really helped us out in being able to come down here and be able to do that for her,” Cermignano said. “It was a big deal for her.”
What happens in Vegas
OSU is set to head out west for its next game, as the team will partake in the South Point Shootout, a tournament in Las Vegas over Thanksgiving weekend.
On Friday, the Buckeyes are scheduled take on Liberty (2-1), before facing a third ranked team thus far, No. 13 Texas A&M, fresh off a 72-66 overtime win over No. 14 Duke a day later.
OSU has played in an early-season tournament in all three seasons of McGuff’s tenure in Columbus.