Ohio State had not found success from 3. Through three quarters, the Buckeyes had made only one of 11 attempts from deep — a buzzer-beater 3 by freshman forward Dorka Juhasz to end the first quarter.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Ohio State instead shifted its focus on what head coach Kevin McGuff had previously said makes his team perform well: a stingy defense and taking care of the basketball.
After recording three consecutive possessions with a steal, each ending with three fastbreak layups, Ohio State (5-8, 1-4 Big Ten) set the tone for a fourth quarter, ultimately defeating No. 25 Indiana (14-2, 3-1 Big Ten) 55-50 for its first conference win of the season and the Buckeyes’ first win against a ranked opponent.
Ohio State has been in this position before against a ranked team: going into the fourth quarter against No. 4 Maryland Friday with a 58-57 lead. This time, redshirt senior guard Carmen Grande wanted to use momentum created to come through with a win.
“I think we just looked at each other and we were like ‘Guys, we can win this,”’ Grande said. “We want to win a game. We are always right there and we never knock it down, so we were like ‘Come on, let’s do it.’”
Taking a 38-36 lead with 8:19 left in the game after scoring eight unanswered points, the Buckeyes and the Hoosiers traded leads for much of the final quarter. But freshman guard Janai Crooms scored five points in a 7-0 run for the Buckeyes, giving the Buckeyes 51-46 lead with 1:26 left in the game.
Crooms finished the game with 12 points, making 55.6 percent of her shot attempts, but only 2-of-6 attempts from the free throw line.
This was something that plagued Ohio State all game, as the team combined to make 56.3 percent of attempts from the charity stripe.
Despite allowing a 5-0 run for the Hoosiers, bringing the game to within one with 20 seconds left, Grande hit four free throws to secure the five-point victory. In the second half, the Buckeyes missed only two of 10 attempts from the line.
Ohio State recorded 11 steals against Indiana, five of which were in the fourth quarter, scoring 24 points off turnovers with 11 fastbreak points.
“Everything starts with the defense, so if you are able to steal the ball or get good stops, you are always going to get easier baskets,” Grande said. “We just saw that three stops could get us the win, so let’s keep it rolling.”
McGuff said the success of the team hinges on the success of its defense and rebounding, bringing them in a lot of close games.
In this case, the head coach said it was vital to not only record those steals, but to have those turnovers lead to scores.
“We were also struggling a little bit to score,” McGuff said. “Not only were we getting stops, we were turning those turnovers into points and just a really critical point in the game that I’m really proud of the kids for stepping up and making those plays.”
The Buckeyes began the game with a 14-2 deficit to overcome, making only one of its first 11 shots, turning the ball over five times.
“We weren’t getting enough good shots and weren’t making the ones we got,” McGuff said. “We settled for tough quick shots in the first half, and that’s not going to do it for us.”
Then Ohio State began to heat up, shooting 46.7 percent in the second half as Grande led the team with seven points, making 3-of-5 shots from the field. Ohio State, outscoring the Hoosiers 15-10 in the quarter, cut its deficit to 24-20 at halftime.
Grande had a rough start, missing each of her first four shots from the field, including one 3-point attempt in the first quarter. However, as Ohio State started to heat up offensively, so did she, shooting 54.5 percent from the field for the remainder of the game. She led the team with 19 points.
In the post, Indiana redshirt junior forward Brenna Wise, despite being four inches shorter than Juhasz, recorded 12 rebounds, with the Hoosiers recording 10 more rebounds than Ohio State on the game.
Ohio State has its first win in conference play, its first win since Dec. 16. Crooms wants this win to bring momentum to a team that she feels is improving.
“We know we can play together and we are good when we are all clicking together,” Crooms said. “I feel like in the next game we will all just come with that momentum because people are doubting us.”
Ohio State will try and continue to build off its first Big Ten win of the season at home against Michigan State Monday at 7 p.m.