Four days after securing a nailbiter against lowly Illinois Sunday night, Northwestern headed into Thursday’s matchup against 24-ranked Ohio State looking to seal a convincing win. In a matchup between Jantel Lavender and Amy Jaeschke, two of the most promising centers in women’s basketball, Northwestern seized control in the middle of the first half and survived a last-gasp rally by the Buckeyes to win by a score of 64-53.
Hero of the Game | Brittany Orban
Orban is, quite frankly, playing the wrong sport. A consummate hustle player who relishes the dirty work and the brunt of opponents’ aggression, Orban played like a possessed safety, taking dives and crashing the boards with reckless abandon. She finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, a gaudy statistic considering her small stature at 6-feet-tall. Her shooting efforts were notable — going 2-for-3, but 9-of-10 from the charity stripe — indicative of her aggressiveness and penchant for drawing fouls.
Containing Ohio State’s second-ranked conference scoring output required a team effort, and while many players put forth heroic efforts tonight, Orban’s tone set the example for the rest of the night.
Stat of the Game | Ohio State’s shooting
You can’t point to just one statistic that zeroes in on Ohio State’s offensive slump. To wit: Lavender’s 9-of-24 effort, 16 first-half points, 31.5 percent from the field, forward Sarah Schulze’s 1-of-12 effort and so forth. The only bright spot came from Samantha Prahalis, who matched Lavender’s 19 points on a 9-of-18 clip.
Ohio State was plagued by missed layups and a stingy Wildcat defense that locked down Lavender, who only shot 2-of-12 in the first half and found most of her offensive output from jump shots.
Although head coach Jim Foster was pleased with the team’s defensive intensity, he said, “you can’t play with that reckless intensity on offense; offense is the technical part of the game. And I think we tried too hard.”
Turning Point | Prahalis’ clear-path foul on Orban with 4:08 remaining
Down by 13 with 4:08 left in the game, Prahalis fouled Orban on a fast break that gave the ‘Cats two shots and possession, a frustrating blunder of a white flag. After sinking the two free throws, the Buckeyes proceeded to go on a 8-0 run in less than two minutes, punctuated by three forced turnovers off a full-court press that had head coach Joe McKeown fuming. Northwestern would eventually eke out enough time to extend the final margin at the free throw line.
Where to Improve | Turnovers
Ohio State took a remarkable 20 more shots than Northwestern did, and forced 17 turnovers, which were partially responsible for the differential in attempts. Were it not for Ohio State’s stone-cold shooting effort, the additional offensive chances could have been enough to topple the longstanding Wildcat lead in the endgame.