Penn State guard Kamaria McDaniel obliterated the Ohio State defense in the first five minutes of the third quarter with 11 of her team’s 16 points, trying to will the Nittany Lions to an upset win after the Buckeyes had knocked off a ranked opponent just a few nights earlier.
McDaniel was simply tougher than Ohio State in those moments Sunday afternoon. It took a quick intervention during a media timeout for the Buckeyes to regain control of a game that they let the Nittany Lions dictate for too long.
“In the huddle we were just talking about knowing who we’re guarding, talking back on transition defense and just stopping the ball early,” guard Janai Crooms said. “They were getting to the basket way too easy for us.”
Leading 44-42 with 5:13 remaining in the third quarter, the Buckeyes’ shooting returned with authority. Ohio State made 10 of its final 12 shots to finish a 33-point quarter with a commanding lead, eventually winning 80-70 over Penn State (7-9, 1-4) in Value City Arena.
Forward Dorka Juhasz led the Buckeyes (10-6, 3-2) with 23 points and 12 rebounds, while Kierstan Bell added 17 points. Aaliyah Patty and Crooms also were in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
McDaniel and Siyeh Frazier led Penn State with 22 points each.
Bell, who made a pair of clutch shots at the end of Thursday’s 78-69 win over Michigan, knocked down back-to-back three-pointers Sunday for the largest lead of the game to that point at 59-48, but the OSU offense sputtered again in the fourth, outscored 20-14 and allowing Penn State to stay in the game.
Those are the moments Ohio State has to eliminate, even in games when the outcome is no longer in doubt.
“We’ve got to keep up mentally,” Juhasz said. “Sometimes teams can come at us and force us into turnovers, and if we’re not scoring, we’re not locked in, we’re not going to win. In the future, we’ve got to pay attention to that.”
Against the worst scoring defense in the Big Ten, the Ohio State offense that was nearly perfect down the stretch against Michigan was lethargic for long stretches of the first half.
After the Buckeyes made 4 of 16 shots in the first quarter, Juhasz was crucial in the second. She scored 10 of the Buckeyes’ 20 points, giving them a seven-point lead at the break.
“I think you saw how great she is from her versatility standpoint,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “She scored around the basket, she scored around the perimeter.”
The Buckeyes have the talent to compete with the best in the conference. Even in a win, though, getting that talent to perform consistently still stands in their way of reaching their potential.
“We did some really good things, but I don’t think we sustained our focus for long enough stretches and really couldn’t impose our will on the game because of that,” McGuff said. “If we’re going to continue to improve and be the team we’re capable of being, it’s got to be great focus for 40 minutes.”