In an up and down game featuring comebacks and blown leads, the Ohio State women’s basketball team (12-12, 8-7 Big Ten) was able to overcome Wisconsin (12-14, 3-11 Big Ten) 70-68 for its 12th win of the season.
The first quarter told a familiar story for the Buckeyes: self-inflicted mistakes that result in an early deficit. With seven turnovers and five fouls, Ohio State found itself down 14-9 at the end of the first frame.
While the first quarter was a struggle for Ohio State, one of the highlights for the Buckeyes was freshman forward Dorka Juhász. With a six-inch height advantage over Wisconsin junior guard Kendra Van Leeuwen, Juhász got up for a block on an attempted layup that sent the crowd and the Buckeyes’ bench into a frenzy.
With the Buckeyes in striking range to open the second quarter, Wisconsin went on a 13-4 run over the next 4:32 to take the wind out of Ohio State’s sails.
Already facing a short bench with redshirt senior forward Makalya Waterman out for the game with an injury, foul trouble was not something the Buckeyes needed. But redshirt senior guard Adreana Miller found herself with three fouls just two minutes into the second quarter and was forced to the bench.
With the short bench and foul trouble quickly becoming an issue for the Buckeyes, Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said it was tough to overcome these issues..
“One of the big keys today was Adreana and Jensen’s minutes,” McGuff said. “Because of [Makayla] being out, and the foul trouble, if they don’t step up I don’t think we’re gonna have enough to win today.”
It was a physical game, with both teams combining for 49 personal fouls, and every player who attempted a shot picking up at least one foul. At the free throw line, the Badgers were 13-of-19 and the Buckeyes connected on 19-of-29 free throw shots.
The Badgers maintained the lead for the rest of the quarter, but Ohio State was able to get back into the game with seven straight points from freshman guard Janai Crooms.
Crooms found the basket on a euro step move later in the quarter and Wisconsin responded on the other end to make it 36-30 at the half.
Back-to-back 3-pointers to open the third quarter by redshirt senior guard Carmen Grande and Crooms tied the game at 36, the first since it was 4-4 early in the first quarter.
Crooms finished the game with 14 points and three rebounds on 5-of-9 shooting, but was forced to the bench with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter with her fourth foul.
After tying the game, the teams continued to play close, with Ohio State unable to capitalize on possessions to take the lead from the Badgers until redshirt senior guard Carly Santoro was fouled on a made layup and connected on the free throw to give Ohio State a 48-47 lead, its first since it was 8-7.
Santoro hit from deep on the next possession to further extend the lead, and the Buckeyes eventually took a 53-49 lead into the final quarter, a lead that they wouldn’t give up the rest of the game.
Santoro finished with 12 points, six of which came in the fourth quarter, and was 5-of-9 from the charity stripe.
The Buckeyes opened the fourth quarter on a 12-5 run in the first six-and-a-half minutes, but Wisconsin exploded offensively and went on a 14-4 run to make it a one-point game with five seconds remaining.
Santoro was fouled on the inbounds pass and made her first free throw. She couldn’t connect on the second, but Wisconsin couldn’t get a shot off to secure the 70-68 victory for the Buckeyes.
“Honestly, just keep playing,” Crooms said. “We always stick together in situations like this, but we never give up. We always have each other’s back, and tell them ‘Hey, next play,’ and to find an open person.”
The Buckeyes’ win over Wisconsin is their eighth Big Ten win, their first time this season above .500 in the conference.
Many of the Buckeyes’ points in pivotal stretches came from Juhász, who finished the game with a team leading 21-point, 15-rebound double-double. Juhász was one of four Buckeyes to finish in double digits along with Grande who added 13 points, five boards and six assists in 40 minutes, not coming out of the game once with the short bench behind Ohio State.
“[Dorka] was good. I think with the whole team getting off to a slow start, she was a part of that, but man, she was really active, especially offensively,” he said. “She really moved well and got herself in position to get great shots in the second half.”
The Buckeyes shot 48.9 percent from the field and were 5-of-18 from beyond the arc. While the Badgers fared slightly better from 3, connecting on 7-of-20, they only shot 42.9 percent from the field.
Ohio State will go on the road to take on No. 24 Michigan State at 6 p.m. on Thursday.