It was a tale of two halves for the Ohio State women’s basketball team (14-13, 10-8) when it took on Rutgers (21-8, 13-5) on Sunday. Despite outscoring the Scarlet Knights 22-9 in the first quarter, the Buckeyes’ ugly side reared its head in the second half, as Rutgers overcame a 13-point deficit at halftime to take the win 66-56.
With the loss, the Buckeyes snap a four-game winning streak and now move into the Big Ten tournament as the No. 5 seed.
Ohio State redshirt senior forward Makayla Waterman said the loss can be attributed to the 30 turnovers the Buckeyes recorded.
“We couldn’t take care of the ball,” Waterman said. “If we want to win any games, that can’t happen. I think we know that, but we were just getting frustrated with ourselves.”
Despite suffering the team’s first loss since Feb. 10, redshirt senior guard Carly Santoro said it won’t affect the team negatively moving forward.
“I just think it fuels our fire to go into the Big Ten tournament and make some noise,” Santoro said. “We’re not going to hang our heads on this game. we’re just going to learn from and prepare for the next team we have. A loss like this isn’t fun, but we’ll use it to motivate us.”
Santoro shot 4-of-7 from the field for a team-leading 13 points with two 3-point makes.
Early on, the game looked like a picture-perfect rematch of when Ohio State trounced Rutgers with a 20-point win on the road on Feb. 14. The Buckeyes jumped out to a 22-9 lead in the first quarter, shooting 72 percent from the field in the first half, including an almost perfect 5-of-6 from 3.
Janai Crooms was a huge reason for the early lead. The freshman forward led the team with eight points in the first half, six coming from the 3-point line. Crooms was only able to tack on four additional points in the second half to finish the game with 12 points along with four assists and four rebounds.
However, the Scarlet Knights employed an effective full-court press to force turnovers and Ohio State went from dominating the first half to shooting only 21 percent in the second half. The Buckeyes managed to make only three shots in the second half.
Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said the team’s focus will be a key thing addressed in future practices, and that there were times his team handled the pressure of this game “abysmally.”
“Our attention to detail and focus was not as good as it’s been,” McGuff said. “We got to get back to making sure we’re sharp in practice and really preparing for the teams we face.”
Also factoring into the shift of power in the game was the Scarlet Knights tallying 15 offensive rebounds to Ohio State’s two. This allowed Rutgers to get more looks at the basket and helped lead to the Buckeyes being outscored 41-18 in the second half.
Even with forcing 22 turnovers, the Buckeyes could not hit shots down the stretch, going 1-for-8 from the field in the fourth quarter in the defeat.
McGuff attributed his team’s late collapse to its failure to minimize mistakes.
“I think there’s the fact that we made a mistake and then it would carry over into the next play and the next play,” McGuff said. “One turnover is not just one turnover. It’s potentially a missed defensive assignment or something else. Our kids are trying to do the right thing. They’re just getting a little bit too down on themselves and not getting back to the next play.”
Ohio State moves forward to the Big Ten tournament this week from March 6-10 at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.