One of the nation’s best women’s college basketball teams fell victim to an upset loss at the hands of the Buckeyes Thursday in Value City Arena.
Ohio State (5-3) toppled No. 2 Louisville (8-1) in a surprise 67-60 result that handed the Cardinals their first loss of the early season.
“People were doubting us, and we showed them that we can play,” Ohio State freshman guard Kierstan Bell said.
The game was back-and-forth throughout, and Louisville took a 3-point lead with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
However, the Buckeyes went on a 10-2 run to end the third that helped propel them to the eventual victory.
Ohio State flashed the ability to hang with the nation’s best teams during its 11-point loss to No. 4 UConn Nov. 24, and sophomore forward Dorka Juhász said the team’s performance in that game was a motivating factor in this one.
Juhász had a team-high 15 points against Louisville, one of four Buckeyes to score in double digits.
“This was another great opportunity to show that we’re a tough team,” Juhász said. “We’re going to fight against anyone, No. 2 or No. 100.”
Louisville took a 33-31 lead at the half, but free-throw shooting began to play a role in the Buckeyes’ success. Ohio State went 8-for-10 from the line while the Cardinals went 4-for-8. The Buckeyes finished with 19 points from the charity stripe, missing just four as they nearly doubled the Cardinals’ 12 attempts.
Rebounding was also a factor, as Ohio State allowed Louisville 15 offensive boards in the game to just three of its own. However, the Cardinals scored just 11 second-chance points.
The difference in the game came in the third quarter, when Ohio State outscored the Cardinals by seven –– the widest margin of any quarter –– and shot 53.8 percent to Louisville’s 35.7.
Sophomore guard Janai Crooms had two big plays in the third. She tied the game at 40 with a 3-pointer, and got a layup on a fast break assist from Bell to go up 50-45 with just over a minute left. Crooms and Bell finished with 11 and 14 points, respectively.
Louisville junior guard Dana Evans had nine of her 18 points in the fourth quarter alone, but the Cardinals shot just 27.8 percent in the period.
With 6:31 to play, Crooms got another fast break layup to start the Buckeyes’ pull-away that led to the win. The Cardinals responded with three field goals made by freshman guard Norika Konno and a layup by Evans. But the Buckeyes held the lead with accurate free-throw shooting after Louisville started to foul to stop the clock.
Head coach Kevin McGuff said without those free throws they couldn’t have won the game. He said they practice free throws every day and with pressure and it was a big factor in tonight’s win.
“This is a great win for us, I told the team this is a pinnacle of our season,” McGuff said. “We competed really hard tonight, we defended and we rebounded against one of the best rebounding teams in the country.”
Ohio State will take on Radford in Columbus, Ohio, with a 2 p.m. tipoff Sunday.