Freshman guard Kaelynn Satterfield found herself wide open in the right corner with a chance to give Ohio State the lead with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter.
The three-point shot clanked off the back rim, and on a second-chance opportunity, freshman Aixa Wone missed a finger-roll attempt to tie the score. A Connecticut jump shot and an easy layup on the next two possessions extended the Huskies’ lead to six to end the quarter.
Ohio State never got closer.
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The Buckeyes battled the fourth-ranked Huskies for four quarters and never seemed out of it, but ultimately lost 73-62 Sunday before 8,909 at Value City Arena.
"I like how we competed and gave ourselves a chance today," Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. "The biggest lesson is (UConn) made big plays at the end of the shot clock and made big shots down the stretch. We had opportunities; we didn't capitalize."
Ohio State freshman guard Kierstan Bell led the Buckeyes with 16 points, and Aaliyah Patty added 11. The Buckeyes shot 35.3% from the field and were 5 of 13 from the line.
UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield led all scorers with 23 points, followed by Christyn Williams with 20 and Megan Walker with 19.
As the game wore on, the crowd hung on to every possession and began to believe that this Buckeyes team, which includes seven freshmen and three sophomores, could pull off one of the greatest wins in program history.
Out of halftime, the Buckeyes hit four of their first five shots to take a five-point lead, capped by a smooth reverse layup off a loose ball by Bell. But Dangerfield and Williams countered with a couple of three-pointers, and Williams added a layup to give the Huskies a 43-40 lead they never relinquished.
With less than three minutes left in the game, the Buckeyes ignited some belief in the crowd with a three-pointer from Bell and a layup off a steal from Jacy Sheldon that trimmed UConn’s lead to six with 2:24 to play.
The next time down the floor, Dangerfield hit a clutch, step-back jumper to thwart the Ohio State comeback. UConn made 7 of 10 shots in the fourth quarter, while the Buckeyes made 5 of 18.
McGuff said he saw a lot of improvement from the past game, but a big difference was that UConn scored 16 points off 12 turnovers. The Buckeyes had 11 points off 14 turnovers and just five points off 14 offensive rebounds.
"Even though we didn't turn it over a lot, they really made us pay when we did, and on the flip side, we didn't really make them pay when they turned it over," McGuff said.
A season ago, the Buckeyes lost by 32 at UConn, which featured a more experienced and talented team. A year later, the Buckeyes led for almost 10 minutes and made one of the most iconic programs in sports earn every point, perhaps a sign that this young team can at least compete with any team in the country.
Ohio State’s second-leading scorer, Braxtin Miller, whom UConn limited to nine points, said despite the loss the Buckeyes left no doubt they would fight tooth and nail with any opponent.
"I know there's been a lot of controversy of how young we are and this and that," Miller said. "But you can't fight us on that we're tough … and toughness can go really far."