If Ohio State women’s basketball fans were told going into the team’s Big Ten tournament opener that their two leading scorers would combine for five baskets and 11 points, that might have been a cause for concern.
But a 77-56 victory over Minnesota on Thursday served as a reminder that the Buckeyes’ depth is an asset that can serve them far beyond a win over the Golden Gophers.
"This team is really dangerous," said Dorka Juhasz, who entered as OSU’s leading scorer but was held to six points. "You never know on what day who’s going to show up."
The boxscore indicated that everyone contributed, whether they did their damage in the scoring column or not.
Held to 3-of-11 shooting, Juhasz still grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked four shots. Aaliyah Patty had 15 points and eight rebounds. Jacy Sheldon scored 15 points, Janai Crooms got 14 on 6-of-7 shooting, and Braxtin Miller had 13 points and five assists.
"We’re at our best when we have balance in our scoring," OSU coach Kevin McGuff said. "I thought Janai in particular was great off the bench. We need more of that" Friday, when No. 6-seeded Ohio State played No. 3-seeded Iowa in a quarterfinal game.
Freshman Kierstan Bell came into the game averaging 11.1 points and only scored five, but with her teammates clicking, she could afford to have an off night.
"We know everybody on the team can score," Bell said. "We just share the ball, execute and play Ohio State basketball."
The Buckeyes (19-11) led Minnesota 23-11 after the first quarter, shooting 53% from the field. But they struggled in the second quarter, allowing the Gophers to pull to 39-33 at halftime.
Minnesota (16-15) played even with the Buckeyes in the third quarter, then closed to 54-50 in the first minute of the fourth. At that point, Ohio State pulled away with a 14-0 run, as Sheldon scored five points and Crooms four.
A crucial aspect of the team’s run was its defense, which forced three turnovers that turned into six points. For the game, Ohio State scored 26 points off 22 Minnesota miscues. The Buckeyes scored 20 fast-break points.
"We’re really great in transition, so for us to have good defensive possessions and get in the passing lanes and apply a lot of pressure so they might not be getting the best shots they want and put us into fast transition, it really works well for us," Miller said. "When our offense isn’t really working out, it’s crucial for us to get transition buckets."
Ohio State did not play a perfect game. The Buckeyes turned the ball over 11 times and struggled from behind the arc, making 6 of 27 three-point tries (22.2%). But the end result was a win in the short term and the long term.
"Anybody can step up at any moment," Miller said. "I think that makes us a threat."