INDIANAPOLIS – “I thought we played hard, we just didn’t play well.”
It just wasn’t meant to be for Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff and the OSU women’s basketball team. After coming into the Big Ten tournament as the No. 1 seed, and favored to win it all, the Buckeyes were stunned by No. 5 seeded Purdue, and the Boilermakers zone defense is the reason.
The Buckeyes hustled, played great defense and kept pushing to find a way to win. The only problem was, the lack of scoring and mental breakdowns led to defeat.
Limiting OSU junior guard Kelsey Mitchell to just 3 for 22 shooting from the field, 1 for 12 from deep and nine points, Purdue was able to keep the Big Ten Player of the Year from making any impact.
The Boilermakers forced 12 Buckeyes’ turnovers, and Purdue earned a bid into the finals at the Big Ten tournament. OSU, however, will be heading home with some questions heading into the NCAA championships.
Even with 20 takeaways and 22 points off Purdue turnovers, the Buckeyes walked away with an early exit to the Big Ten tournament.
OSU junior guard Linnae Harper tried to put a positive spin on the loss.
“It’s not a good feeling, but one thing I do know is that we’re ready to get back in the gym this upcoming week and just work on little things, watch film and make sure we grow from this game,” she said.
As a team, OSU shot just 34 percent, and had problems adjusting to a much slower pace than normal. The Buckeyes were ineffective from the free throw line, and especially poor from behind the arc.
The absence of junior forward Stephanie Mavunga was especially felt down low, as the Buckeyes surrendered 16 second-chance points. But OSU has much more to blame than just some missed chances on the boards and a pesky Purdue defense.
Simply put, OSU could not buy a made shot.
The Buckeyes made a valiant effort to find a way in the end, but Purdue had stretched out just far enough. Purdue was far from amazing from the field, but were on fire from deep.
The Boilermakers just seemed to want the game just a little more. Freshman guard Dominique Oden was asked if she felt the fact OSU was heavily favored had an impact on the intense pace Purdue played with.
“Definitely,” she said. “Because there is nothing to lose when you’re playing a team that everybody expects to win. It’s just … we’re just going to win anyway, because y’all expect us to lose.”
OSU senior forward Shayla Cooper and junior guard Linnae Harper were a few bright spots for the Buckeyes, as each scored 18 and 12 points, respectively. Cooper said her thought process for the game was to try and lead her team with tenacious post play and grit, but OSU could not find a rhythm or cohesiveness.
“Just try to step up and just do everything possible to get my team the win,” she said.
Clearly, some of her best basketball could not shake the performance of OSU as a whole.
With the win, Purdue will face the winner of Maryland and Michigan State. The Buckeyes, who are expected to take a high seed for the NCAA tournament, will have nearly three weeks to rest and regroup before traveling to Dallas for a chance to win it all.