Columbus, OH -- The Purdue Boilermakers, fresh on a nine-game winning streak, were unsuccessful in seeking their tenth win in a Sunday afternoon matinee contest against #5 Ohio State today, losing 90-70.
The intensity with which the Buckeyes played was no accident, coming off of a jarring loss to Northwestern only two days prior. Head coach Kevin McGuff was proud of his team's energy shift since Thursday.
"It was night and day. Every night is hard to maintain, there's so many good teams it's really about keeping your own team focused. If you're not getting better, then people are going to pass you by in this league. The loss against Northwestern stung a little bit and really helped to center us."
The Boilermakers, led by Ashley Morissette, struggled with Ohio State's patient defense, which forced several shot clock violations from them in the first half. The Buckeyes continued their trend of scoring most of their points from three. But this shooting habit certainly didn't work against them today, as the team's three-pointers accounted for 39 of their total 90 points.
Following Shayla Cooper's first two points of the game, Kelsey Mitchell stole an inbound pass and tipped in another layup in a play that seemed to foreshadow the rest of the game. Despite Purdue's force when given the chance in the paint, Ohio State made sure to take advantage of the Boilermaker's generous defense.
Not without fault, the Buckeyes struggled with several unforced turnovers in the first half, leading to several breakaway scoring opportunities for Purdue, who seized the chance to put points on the board without the organized defensive response that plagued them elsewhere.
These weaknesses allowed for the teams to see a 10-10 tie in the first quarter, but it would be the closest Purdue would come to Ohio State. Mitchell then took her cue and led the team in a 10 point streak that helped the Buckeyes to end the quarter leading, 24-14.
Kelsey Mitchell explosively took it to the basket without obstacle, as she has all season, scoring 15 points in the first half. Ashley Morissette responded in fashion by finding her own unfettered ground with a three-pointer from deep in the corner of the court; the two stars seemed determined to prove that they wouldn't be their team's achilles heels.
Shayla Cooper and Ameryst Alston were each the undoubted stars of the game, however, and broke into the spotlight in the second quarter. Alston stole possession for Ohio State following an attempted layup by Purdue, crossing the court to reach over 6'6" freshman Nora Kiesler and put two more points on the board for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State performed with stunning quickness, sure to put their hands in the passing lanes and make the most of their presence in front of the Boilermakers. Purdue's Head Coach Sharon Versyp was disappointed that they were unable to anticipate the Buckeye's performance today, citing her team's focus on Mitchell and Alexa Hart distracting from unexpected threats like Cooper and Alston.
"You try to understand their tendencies and do specific things, but other kids stepped up for them too. If they are penetrating as hard as they do, they make their post pretty good, because they have so much attention drawn to them."
Mitchell proved to be a valid distraction, though. Nearing the Ohio State emblem at center court, Mitchell sailed a distant three-pointer and caught nothing but net in the third quarter. Shayla Cooper then quickly fired off four three-point jump shots in the first five minutes of the half, stepping into the openings her team forced by continuing to draw out Purdue's defense.
Players like Cooper and Alston made much of the difference in this afternoon's story, firing up their team from a performance that could have left the Buckeyes dejected. 12 of Cooper's 16 game points were made behind the three-point line, and Alston nearly matched star shooter Kelsey Mitchell's 27 points with 25 of her own.
Alston took no glory in her stellar performance, however, crediting her teammates for having such a powerful selection of players.
"We have so many different aspects to our team, and that's the way it should be, and that's what makes us dangerous."
In the end, the Ohio State sealed the win 90-70, thanks to their powerhouse of dangerous talent that made Alston so proud tonight. The Buckeyes will be back on the road this Thursday evening to face the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor.