Thursday night’s contest between the Ohio State women’s basketball team and the Illinois Fighting Illini featured an ensemble performance from the Buckeyes that led to the victory.
Ohio State saw four different players score 10 or more points, led by redshirt senior forward Makayla Waterman who scored a career-high 18 points complemented by seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Coming off a road win against Minnesota, Waterman and the Buckeyes (9-10, 5-5 Big Ten) once again came from behind in the fourth quarter to defeat Illinois (9-12, 1-9 Big Ten) 78-70.
Waterman said she felt comfortable out on the court in her matchup.
“I just felt like I had an advantage over the person who was guarding me tonight,” Waterman said. “I’m an undersized post in the Big Ten, and I think that tonight I was trying to utilize that. I’ve really been focusing on finishing my moves and that was what worked tonight.”
Also getting in on the scoring were redshirt senior guard Carly Santoro, who contributed 16 points with four assists, redshirt senior guard Carmen Grande, who scored 15 points on 4-of-12 shooting, with six rebounds and five assists and redshirt senior guard Andreana Miller, who shot 4-7 from the 3-point line to score 14 points.
Waterman was quick to praise her teammates’ performances, but also cited that their play was not perfect.
“We’re really trying to outwork people at this point, and I think that we did that tonight,” Waterman said. “This team, we know we have to win together. We know that each side is going to be collective whether it’s a couple people scoring double figures or everyone scoring we know that it’s going to be like that. There’s not one person can carry us this season.”
In addition to the contributions from multiple members of the team, a key difference maker was Ohio State shooting extremely well from the 3-point line, hitting a season high 12 from deep on 27 attempts.
The reason for the success was Ohio State taking advantage of Illinois, prioritizing the paint on defense according to head coach Kevin McGuff.
“Illinois was in the point trying to take away our driving lanes and that gave us more 3-point opportunities,” McGuff said. “The way they were guarding us just led to us taking advantage and led to things being more open out there.”
The game was largely back and forth between both teams. The Buckeyes led 35-26 at halftime and looked poised to take control of the game, but Illinois came out charging in the third quarter, scoring 23 in the frame to take a one-point lead into the fourth quarter.
McGuff cited the play in the third quarter as a lack of focus from the Ohio State players.
“Tonight, we played really hard, but we had some stretches where mentally we made a lot of errors,” McGuff said. “I told the players it’s great that we can learn that lesson off a win, but we put ourselves in positions where we could’ve lost that game.”
But Ohio State pulled it together mentally and had a quick run of 10 points early in the fourth quarter featuring 3 pointers from Santoro and Miller to take control of the game. Illinois attempted to mount a late comeback, but staunch defense by the Buckeyes prevented the threat of a loss.
Santoro said the success came from Ohio State taking advantage of foul trouble by Illinois.
“We just really focused on attacking,” Santoro said. “We were in double bonus halfway through the third quarter, so that gave us an advantage and we used it to get to the free-throw line and hit some big shots at the end.”
Freshman forward Dorka Juhasz returned to the court in limited play after being sidelined for two games with a sprained ankle. Juhasz scored three points coming off the bench and had five rebounds in 17 minutes of play..
McGuff praised Juhasz for returning to the game and playing well with her injury.
“I don’t know if she’s back to 100 percent yet, but it was very good to see her back out there,” McGuff said. “We needed her out there and one thing I thought that was really good was her size bothered them around the basket.”
Ohio State heads back out on the road in a matchup against the Northwestern Wildcats. Tip-off is set at Welsh-Ryan Arena at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.