The Ohio State women’s basketball team entered Sunday riding a season-high, four-game winning streak and had a chance at the fourth seed — and a double-bye — in the Big Ten tournament.
The Buckeyes were home facing Rutgers, a team they had beaten by 20 points on the road a couple of weeks ago.
A blistering start at Value City Arena gave Ohio State an early 16-point advantage, but the Scarlet Knights held the Buckeyes to a single field goal over the final 11:26 and outscored Ohio State 20-6 in the final quarter en route to a 66-56 win in front of 5,030 fans.
Ohio State (14-13, 10-8) will enter the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis as the fifth seed and Thursday will face the winner of the Wisconsin-Penn State game.
The Buckeyes led for 33 minutes and sported a 51-48 advantage with 8:59 left. The Scarlet Knights (21-8, 13-5) then went on an 11-0 run, led by a pair of three-pointers by Zipporah Broughton and one by Arella Guirantes, and Ohio State never drew closer than five points.
Broughton and Guirantes scored 19 points each. Ohio State was led by Carly Santoro with 13 points and Janai Crooms with 12. Crooms added four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The Buckeyes sprinted out to an 8-0 lead a little more than two minutes into the game and stretched the gap to 22-6 when Adreana Miller hit a three-pointer with 1:03 left in the opening quarter. Crooms scored eight points, grabbed two rebounds and handed out two assists in the first. The Buckeyes made 8 of 12 shots from the field.
Ohio State forced seven turnovers in the first quarter, but committed six of its own. Giving the ball away was a theme for the day — the Buckeyes had a season-high 30 turnovers, including 11 by Crooms, as the Rutgers press gave OSU fits.
“We make mistakes and then it carries over to the next play and the next play — so one turnover isn’t just one turnover, it's potentially a missed defensive assignment or another turnover because we’re so focused on that,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “Our kids are trying to do the right thing, they’re just getting a little bit down on themselves and not getting on to the next play.”
The Buckeyes shot 83.3 percent (5 of 6) in the second quarter, but turned it over 10 times. They still led 38-25 at the half.
“I asked our team if (the Buckeyes are) making plays because they’re better than us or because we’re not mentally tough enough?” Rutgers interim head coach Tim Eatman said. “We knew we had to be stronger mentally in the second half.”
Rugters cut the deficit to a point twice in the third quarter, but the Buckeyes were able to hold off the Scarlet Knights and carry a 50-46 lead going into the fourth.
The only points the Buckeyes could muster in the fourth consisted of a three-pointer by Makayla Waterman and three free throws by Santoro. They had six points, seven missed field goals, three missed free throws and six turnovers in the final 10 minutes.
Rutgers had 15 offensive rebounds overall, compared to two by Ohio State. The Scarlet Knights turned those into 15 second-chance points, and their bench outscored Ohio State's 35-8.
“Our attention to detail and our focus wasn’t as good as it’s been," McGuff said. “We just came unglued.”