Second-half collapse ends OSU's season

Jeff Thithoff The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State struggled with consistency throughout the season. Incorporating new faces in graduate transfers and freshmen will cause that. On Wednesday night in a Women’s NIT opener against Morehead State, that inconsistency ended its season.

The Buckeyes built an 11-point lead in the third quarter but were outscored 44-23 over the final 17:25 and fell 71-61 to the Eagles in front of 1,114 at Value City Arena.

Morehead State (24-10) advances to play the winner of a game Thursday between Miami University and Western Kentucky. Ohio State (14-15) turns the page and begins work on the 2019-20 season.

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Adreana Miller made a three-pointer off an assist from Carmen Grande to give the Buckeyes a 38-27 lead. From that point, Aliyah Jeune lit up the nets for the Eagles, making 4 of 6 three-pointers in the second half, when she scored 16 of her 20 points. She finished 6 of 11 on three-pointers.

“We got off to a tough start in the third quarter and I almost called a timeout,” Morehead State coach Greg Todd said. “Our goal all along was just to be in the game when the fourth quarter started and we were able to do that.”

Freshman Dorka Juhasz led Ohio State with 15 points and 10 rebounds, but she left the game with 4:08 remaining and didn’t return. McGuff said it was an ankle injury that did not appear to be serious. Janai Crooms, also a freshman, added 13 points and six assists, but also committed eight turnovers.

The Buckeyes entered with a decided size advantage and held Morehead State’s leading rebounder, Tierra McGowan, to just three, six below her average. Yet the Eagles pulled down 10 more rebounds than Ohio State.

“We weren’t the more physical team, and we were going to need to be that to win,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said.

The game was about scoring spurts early. Morehead State jumped out to a 10-4 lead, but the Buckeyes reeled off 11 straight points and took a 17-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. Carly Santoro led the way with six points and Juhasz pulled down four rebounds.

A 9-0 run by the Eagles put them in front by one in the second quarter, but the Buckeyes closed the half by outscoring Morehead State 10-2 and Ohio State went into the locker room with a 31-25 lead.

“I thought in the first half we really had a chance to stretch out our lead and impose our will,” McGuff said. “But we just never played consistently enough, and I think we let them get comfortable and now all of a sudden they’re making shots.”