After an 11-point defeat to UConn, it was clear that Ohio State had the capabilities to compete with some of the best teams in the country.
But on Thursday, the Buckeyes proved more than that.
Against Louisville, the No.2 team in the country that is coming off a 10-point win against the former top ranked team in the nation, Ohio State took a five-point lead into the fourth quarter and held on the rest of the way, stunning the Cardinals with a 67-60 victory, and giving Louisville its first loss to an unranked opponent in 103 games.
“I thought we beat a great team,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said. “Louisville, they’re an excellent team, I thought they played really hard, and it’s a great win for us.”
Ohio State held a 62-53 lead with 4:36 to play in the fourth quarter, but a pair of baskets by Norika Konno cut the lead to five with 3:47 to go.
But after a multitude of stops on the defensive end, a free throw make by Braxtin Miller made the lead six points, and Kierstan Bell shut the door entirely with two more free throws to seal the game.
“When it comes to crunch time, you know you have to knock it down,” Bell said. “I wasn’t really thinking about anything, I was just like ‘make these two free throws and close them out,’ and that’s what we did.”
Bell was a major spark for the Buckeyes in the second half, scoring 12 or her 14 points in the second half, while also adding six rebounds.
“I knew the team needed me, so you know I had to step up and take part, so that’s what I did and it worked out,” Bell said. “That’s a team win right there.”
Freshman forward Rebeka Mikulasikova continued her hot stretch of games, finishing with 11 points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting, including a pair of makes from three.
Another European forward was key for the Buckeyes in sophomore Dorka Juhasz. Juhasz played 34 minutes, and ended with 15 points and seven rebounds on 6-of-9 shooting.
Juhasz said that loss to the Huskies less than two weeks ago was a major influence in pulling out the victory over Louisville.
“I feel like after the really close UConn game, this one was more of a chance to prove what we are capable of, so I think that game was, we were really motivated to beat Louisville,” Juhasz said. “It was that feeling when we have some adrenaline and we were fighting for each other, so it was a really great game and we were really happy after.”
After holding a 19-17 lead at the end of the first quarter, Ohio State went down two at the half, 33-31 thanks in part to a 10-0 run that put Louisville up 29-21.
The Buckeyes shot 47.6 percent in the opening two quarters and held Louisville to 42.4 percent shooting, but a 10 to five turnover margin in favor of the Cardinals made the difference early.
Louisville’s Dana Evans led the way for the Cardinals in scoring, finishing with 18 points.
The Buckeyes held the Cardinals to 36.9 percent shooting on the night, and made significant improvements at the free throw line, hitting 19 of 23 attempts from the charity stripe.
“We’re working on it every day, I’m telling you, we’re in practice every single day,” McGuff said on the team’s free throw shooting. “We’re working on it, and it was great to see our kids step up, and that was, you know we weren’t going to win unless we made those free throws.”
Ohio State moves on to play Radford at 2 p.m. Sunday in Value City Arena.
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