Buckeyes Win Season Opener at West Virginia 70-61

Coach McGuff was presented with the game ball after the game.
Coach McGuff was presented with the game ball after the game.

Nov. 8, 2013

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Sophomore Ameryst Alston scored a career-high 29 points to lead Ohio State to a 70-61 road win at West Virginia Friday night, giving new head coach Kevin McGuff his first win as Buckeye in his very first game.

Playing with only eight healthy players, Alston put the team on her back and hit one clutch shot after the next. She was 10 of 22 from the field with one 3-pointer and recorded six assists, five rebounds and three steals and was 8 of 10 from the free throw line.

"I told Am before the game, `don't pass up an open shot'," McGuff said. "With the people we had out, I knew she was going to have to have a big night. She's really dangerous off the dribble and she did a great job being aggressive. She played under control and really didn't take any bad shots either. She's a fun player to coach and tonight you could see why."

Ohio State led 59-47 with 9:42 left in the game before West Virginia mounted a charge. The Mountaineers would reel off an 11-3 run that cut Ohio State's lead to four, 62-58, with 4:23 to go with Ashley Adams fouling out of the game in the process. But the Buckeyes regrouped and scored the next eight points, highlighted by a Cait Craft 3-point play to put Ohio State back out in front by 12, 70-58, with 3:08 left. The Buckeyes only allowed one field goal over the final 4:23 to help seal the victory.

The game featured six ties and eight lead changes. However, Ohio State led for nearly the entire second half as the Buckeyes' zone defense gave the Mountaineers fits all game, forcing 16 turnovers.

"I think we did a good job of keeping them off balance and not letting them get into a rhythm," McGuff said. "Asya Bussie, around the basket, is probably as physical and talented as any post player we'll see this year. She's really, really good. We certainly had our hands full there and we were trying to do some things to crowd her. In doing so they probably got off more 3-point shots than we would like, but I think we were able to get out and contest enough of them to bother them."

Craft finished with a career-high 15 points in her second career start and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds while going 6 of 7 from the line with three steals. Martina Ellerbe was the third Buckeye in double-figures with a career-high 12, including two 3-pointers and six boards. Adams finished with eight points and four blocked shots while battling foul trouble.

With emphasis on the new defensive rules, Ohio State's post players battled foul trouble essentially all game trying to neutralize WVU's 6-5 center Asya Bussie, who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, but also committed six turnovers. Christal Caldwell scored a game-high 17 points for WVU, who shot just 2 of 20 from 3-point range. With 46 fouls called, Ohio State made a living at the free throw line, going 18 of 23.

The Buckeyes were without the services of junior guard Raven Ferguson, who is serving the first of her three-game suspension, junior guard Maleeka Kynard, who is nursing an injured left ankle, and junior Shelbi Honeycutt. Redshirt sophomore Kalpana Beachis expected to be out for the season with a knee injury.

"That's probably what I'm most proud of," McGuff added. "Once we quit worrying about what we didn't have and what we did have and the fact that if we go out there and compete for 40 minutes, then we're going to give ourselves a chance to win. That was the best part about tonight. We played hard and we competed. We faced some adversity, but we fought right through it and stayed together as a team. We beat a really good team on the road and that's not easy to do."

Ohio State is back in action this Sunday when it welcomes Florida Atlantic at 2 p.m. at Value City Arena. For tickets call 1-800-GoBucks or visit www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.