After suffering two straight Big Ten losses to the Michigan Wolverines and the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the Ohio State women’s basketball regained some momentum with a 69-60 victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions. It didn’t come easy, though.
The Nittany Lions had suffered seven straight losses entering the matchup, but gave the Buckeyes problems throughout the game. Penn State fought back with size and aggression, outscoring the Buckeyes by 10 in the paint.
OSU won the game from behind the arc by holding a 9-1 advantage in 3-pointers made and held a 17-5 advantage in second-chance points.
Buckeye freshman forward Alexa Hart proved to be the difference-maker for OSU with a game-high 15 rebounds, with nine of them coming on the offensive side of the ball. After a close loss against Minnesota three days earlier, Hart said she was focused on attacking the glass against the Nittany Lions.
“I just said, ‘When a ball goes up, I have to get every rebound,’” Hart said. “So that was my way of coming back from that situation.”
OSU coach Kevin McGuff said Hart’s performance was key to the winning effort.
“Alexa had a great game, she really competed hard,” McGuff said of the 6-foot-3-inch freshman. “That’s how we are going to have to rebound night-in and night-out to really be successful.”
Penn State coach Coquese Washington said she thought Hart was the game changer for the Buckeyes.
“She was a beast on the boards for them inside,” Washington said. “We needed to keep her off the glass and keep them from getting second-chance opportunities.”
Another Buckeye who continued to shine was freshman guard Kelsey Mitchell, who had a game-high 21 points. Mitchell was followed in the scoring department by junior guard Ameryst Alston, who added 18 points for the Buckeyes.
“(We) made sure that we were able to get Ameryst (Alston) the ball and let her do as much as she could in the middle because she is effective,” Mitchell said.
The entire game was back and forth, as the lead changed eight different times. Hart said that while the size of the Nittany Lions was a challenge, she was able to use other parts of her game to be successful.
“They were big, but they were kind of slow.” Hart said. “I used my quickness and athleticism against them, trying to move around them to find open areas and grab rebounds.”
McGuff said he thought the Buckeyes were “patient and we played well at times and stretches.”
Even though the Buckeyes held a 10-point lead with about seven minutes to go in the second half, McGuff said the team has to play well for an entire contest.
“Overall I am happy with the win, but we need to play better with more focus and energy then what we did tonight,” he said. “We are still in a situation where we need to play the whole 40 minutes better.”
The Buckeyes have a week off before they are set to travel to Purdue on Sunday to take on the Boilermakers at 2 p.m. in Mackey Arena.