Around the Oval is Eleven Warriors' weekly love letter to Ohio State sports that don't get the coverage they should.
Basketball? Ohio State has been really good at it recently, and if you think it's just the men's team who are making waves, think again. The Lady Buckeyes are on a roll of their own, and it's at the most crucial time of year.
Coming off two straight wins, the team contested its final regular season game on Sunday as they hosted Michigan at Value City Arena on Senior Day. It was an emotional goodbye for the senior class of Emily Harmon, Tayler Hill, Brianna Sanders and Amber Stokes, but the sentiment was used in the best way possible. The Buckeyes never trailed after the five-minute mark, completely overpowering the Wolverines for a 66-55 win.
In her final home game, Hill didn't disappoint, scoring her customary 20 points along with three assists and three steals. Three of the other starting five also contributed double figures: Ashley Adams and Ameryst Alston both had 12 while Raven Ferguson had 13 and led the team in rebounds with five.
With the win, the Buckeyes were the ninth seed in the Big Ten tournament, and their opponent in the first round was Minnesota, a team they had lost twice to already this season. Whatever the Buckeyes had been doing in their current 6-2 winning run didn't seem to present itself in the first half of last night's game, especially after Rachel Banham's early three that set the Gophers on the move.
Despite having trailed most of the first half, the deficit was only one at intermission, and Ohio State had yet another comeback left in the tank. Of course, it was Hill who made the telling contribution — her three-pointer less than a minute into the half tied the game at 27, and from then on the Buckeyes never fell behind. The senior was lights out in the second half, scoring 15 of her 25 points and incessantly keeping the Gophers out of the game with her clutch free throws and three assists.
But just like many of their other late-season successes, the 58-47 win was a team effort. Alston and Adams both had seven rebounds during the second twenty minutes, while Stokes and Adams combined for four of the Buckeyes' six assists that half, with the team scoring 11 points directly off of those takeaways. It was a performance that stemmed from a timeout taken by coach Jim Foster in the first half.
"I think we then went on a 27-4 run between [the first] half and the next half," Foster said. "We stayed focused on what our plan was and didn't deviate from it."
Ohio State's reward for such a terrific end-of-season run? Well, the number one seed Penn State Nittany Lions, of course. But the team will be quick to point out that — like vs. Penn State — the Buckeyes were winless against Minnesota in the regular season, and look what happened. Who says they can't do it again? We'll find out tonight at 7 p.m. if the Scarlet & Gray can upset their way to the semis.
As far as the Ohio State men's hockey team was concerned, the only question this weekend was whether or not they could clinch home ice advantage. But to do so they had to get points on the road against one of the best teams in the nation in Miami, who were vying for the regular-season title themselves.
Friday night's game turned out to be one of the best of the Buckeyes' season, and they looked like the team that has reversed their early season woes here in the past month. A scoreless first period was the platform the team needed, and just over a minute into the second they took the lead through Chris Crane's power-play goal. A little over ten minutes later it was two, Szczsechura combining with his linemates Fritz and McCormick to get his 11th of the season.
Behind Brady Hjelle's 29 saves and a McCormick empty-netter, Ohio State closed out the evening with an impressive 3-0 win. Their competitors in the race for fourth, Ferris State, lost 4-1 in Ann Arbor, meaning the Buckeyes needed only a point on Saturday to clinch home ice.
The Redhawks were back to their championship form though, as they scored one goal in both the first and second periods and added two more in the third to put them up 4-0. Late tallies from Craig Dalrymple and Szczsechura spared the Buckeyes' blushes, and they were condemned to a 4-2 defeat in their final regular season game.
Even with the loss, some of the Buckeyes were still recognized for their stellar performances of late: Dalrymple was awarded the defenseman of the week, and Fritz was named player of the month for February after his 12-point performance put him in the league lead in conference scoring.
Ultimately Ohio State's three points on Friday proved vital, as Ferris lost in shootout to hand the Buckeyes the #4 seed. The Scarlet & Gray haven't been to the quarterfinals since 2010, when they lost to Miami, two games to one. The team now faces a bye week as they prepare for their last-eight matchup with the Bulldogs. Game one is next Friday, the 15th, at 7:05 p.m. at the OSU Ice Rink. Game two is the next night at the same time, and if necessary game three will be Sunday, also at 7:05.
Should they win that series, they'll move on to the CCHA Final Four at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. They haven't been to that stage since 2005, and this year is the best chance to get back there in quite a while.
While the men's squad was booking its place in the playoffs, the women's team was already there, as they traveled up north to face Minnesota Duluth in a best-of-three first-round series of the WCHA playoffs.
Game one on Friday afternoon found the home team coming out faster, with the Bulldogs scoring less than four minutes in. Ten minutes later, the Buckeyes were on terms through an Ally Tarr power-play goal, and with under two minutes left in the period the power play was the trick again when Paige Semenza scored her 13th to give OSU a lead going into intermission.
Minnesota Duluth responded again in the second to tie it up, only for Ohio State's third power-play goal to put them in the lead again. Hokey Langan's empty-netter late in third sealed the 4-2 win for Nate Handrahan's team, and they went into Saturday looking for the sweep.
Any anticipated urgency from the hosts, who were looking to move on from this round for the first time in their history, was nowhere to be found in game two as the Buckeyes powered their way to the series sweep. Tina Hollowell and Minttu Tuominen both scored first-period goals, and Langan finished the scoring in third as Ohio State ran out convincing 3-0 winners. Goaltender Chelsea Knapp stopped all 21 of Minnesota Duluth's shots to get her third shutout of the season.
Ohio State is now in the WCHA Final Face-Off this weekend in Minneapolis. The first semifinal is Friday afternoon between North Dakota and Wisconsin, while the Buckeyes face Minnesota in the evening. The Gophers swept a weekend series against OSU earlier in the year on their way to a 34-0-0 overall record, the first undefeated season in women's collegiate hockey history. Let's hope the hometown Gophers can invoke shades of the '07 Patriots as they square up against Ohio State. The game on Friday is at 8:07 p.m. and should the Bucks navigate it, they will play on Sunday in the final at the same time.
Happy valley Turnaround
Ohio State men's lacrosse team has had an exceptional start to the season, going 3-0 and outscoring their opponents, 41-22. It was their game this past weekend, though, which produced their finest performance of the infant campaign.
Facing off against Penn State in State College, the No. 13 Buckeyes knew their task would be difficult against the No. 8 Nittany Lions. In the beginning the hosts showed their quality, scoring six unanswered goals in the second quarter to take an 8-2 lead into halftime.
Less than a minute into the third, the fight back was ignited by the talismanic Jesse King, who scored his second of the game and 10th of the season. After that his teammates followed suit, the Buckeyes matching the six scored by Penn State in the second by doing the same in the third, and the game was tied again at 8-8.
Logan Schuss gave the Buckeyes their first lead with seven minutes to go, but the Nittany Lions tied things up three minutes later and the game went to overtime. The final two stanzas were dominated by the Buckeyes, who outshot their hosts, 14-1, though in overtime their first two shots couldn't find a way through. Finally, after Jesse King's first attempt at a hat trick missed the net, Carter Brown collected the ball and found King again, and the sophomore slotted home with only 00.2 to go in the extra session. The goal completed his third hat trick of the season and gave Ohio State a 10-9 victory to improve their record to 4-0.
Nick Myers's team is in action again this Saturday when they host Denver at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at 1 p.m.