The Buckeyes couldn’t deliver in their home opener against the Bobcats in a back-and-forth game.
Ohio (3-1) defeated Ohio State (2-1) 74-68 in Value City Arena. The Buckeyes held the lead at halftime, but couldn’t recover from a 23-point third quarter from the Bobcats.
Even after the Bobcats shot 67 percent in the third to take an eventual 12-point lead, Ohio State tied it up with 2:20 remaining.
“That showed us that we have to start this earlier, the comeback,” sophomore forward Dorka Juhász said. “We have to play this from the beginning, this toughness, how we played in the last few minutes. We just have to learn from this.”
Despite crawling back, Ohio State missed its final five shots and let the game slip into the Bobcats’ hands.
Junior guard Braxtin Miller said working for a comeback in a game this early in the season will help Ohio State moving forward.
The Buckeyes went 25-for-69 from the field and shot just 19 percent from 3-point range. The Bobcats had a more efficient night, 38 percent overall, including 33 percent from 3.
Despite the rough shooting percentage, freshman guard Kierstan Bell and freshman forward Aixa Wone Aranaz led the team with 12 points each, but four Buckeyes finished with 10 or more points. Juhász was one point away from having a double-double with nine points and 16 rebounds.
Juhász said there was an emphasis on rebounding after Ohio State’s first two games. The Buckeyes grabbed 38 boards in their games against Valparaiso and Cincinnati, but out-rebounded the Bobcats 50-41 Sunday.
The Bobcats had three players finish with double-figure scoring, but senior guard Amani Burke led the way with 23 points. Redshirt sophomore forward Erica Johnson followed with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Ohio State entered the fourth quarter down six, and began increasing pressure on defense. Its press led to transition buckets off steals.
“I think the momentum definitely helped us,” Miller said. “We’ve worked really hard on trying to make that press better because it wasn’t where it needed to be to start the season. It was really good to watch us come out and work super hard in that and see it pay off.”
However, the efforts proved futile, and head coach Kevin McGuff said he should’ve implemented the press earlier in the game. He said the team will learn from the tough loss.
Foul trouble also factored into the Buckeyes’ loss. Sophomore guard Janai Crooms and freshman guard Madison Greene both fouled out and sophomore forward Aaliyah Patty finished with four fouls.
“We couldn’t get into any rhythm and I think the players were getting a little frustrated,” McGuff said. “It’s part of the game sometimes and we have to make sure we fight through that.”
Juhász said Ohio’s mental toughness and physicality were factors in the loss.
“We have a long way to go,” McGuff said. “You see flashes where we play really well, but at the same time we’re light years from where we need to be, and we have a lot of work to do at practice.”
Ohio State will seek a rebound victory at Kent State Thursday with a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.