The disadvantages were apparent before the opening tipoff Thursday night for the Ohio State women’s basketball team for a game at No. 23 Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey.
It was a Big Ten road game against a ranked team, and the Buckeyes were without starter Makayla Waterman, who stayed back in Columbus to rehab a knee injury.
Those obstacles, however, proved to be easy to overcome as Ohio State jumped out to a fast start and kept Rutgers at arm’s length for the rest of the game in a 59-39 win.
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The Scarlet Knights came in with a reputation for a stifling defense, but Ohio State (11-12, 7-7) played the role of stoppers. Rutgers (17-7, 9-4) was just 16 of 61 from the field (26.2 percent), 2 of 21 on three-pointers (9.5 percent) and scored a season low in points.
Ohio State’s Adreana Miller had a huge first quarter in what was a homecoming of sorts for the senior. She is from Somerset, about 10 miles from Rutgers’ campus.
She scored nine points in her first three minutes, including a three-pointer from the left wing that banked in as the shot clock expired to give the Buckeyes a 23-6 lead. The Buckeyes closed the quarter on an 17-1 run over the final 4:14 of the period. Miller finished with 14 points and made 3 of 5 three-pointers.
“With (Makayla) out we needed to step up, and Adreana did that for us tonight,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said.
Ohio State used just six players. Waterman is considered day-to-day.
The biggest lead for the Buckeyes came with 5:55 to play in the second quarter when Carmen Grande knocked down a three-pointer to make it 30-8. Despite committing 20 turnovers in the game, Ohio State never led by fewer than 14 points after the first quarter.
“We had some sloppy turnovers that kept us from really putting the game completely away earlier,” McGuff said. “But we competed so well defensively that we were able to overcome that.”
Grande and Carly Santoro, both seniors, were scoreless in a loss Sunday to Iowa but bounced back. Grande had eight points and eight assists; Santoro scored 12 points.
Dorka Juhasz had nine points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, and fellow freshman Janai Crooms continued to impress with 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and six steals. She had a nice behind-the-back pass to Juhasz for a basket that made it 54-34 with 4:49 left in the game.
“(Crooms) is getting better and better the more she plays,” McGuff said. “She’s fun to watch.”