UW head coach Lisa Stone entered the game against the No. 3 Buckeyes hoping to contain Jessica Davenport with a committee of inside players, but no matter who defended Davenport Thursday night, she found a way to score.
The sophomore center exploded for a career-high 36 points and while doing so shattered the previous Kohl Center record for points by an opponent. At times, Davenport made it look too easy. The center deciphered Wisconsin’s defensive scheme, more often than not catching the ball in perfect position for an easy lay-up or getting fouled.
“Her numbers pop off the plate here,” Stone said. “We tried to play in front of her (Davenport) and get some help from behind. We could not afford to have her get position and just back us down; we just could not do that.”
Davenport also tied a record for most field goals by an opponent by shooting 15 for 21 from the floor. But the way she was playing, it seemed surprising she missed six with the way she set up camp in the lane all night.
Davenport was just one rebound short of a double-double, pulling down five rebounds on the offensive glass alone. Ohio State finished with a 42-27 edge on the boards and, with Davenport holding down the middle, outscored Wisconsin 56-24 in the paint.
Wisconsin collapsed nearly every time they touched the ball, as Stone tried several combinations to slow down Ohio State’s chief scoring threat. Ebba Gebisa started in place of Jordan Wilson and posted eight points and six rebounds while exerting as much effort as she could against the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year. In the end, though, not even Gebisa’s gutsy performance or Stone’s cycling of players on Davenport were able to offset the Buckeye standout’s physical nature and distinctive height advantage.
“We did a pretty decent job of getting the help and trying to get around, but she’s just an amazing post player. That’s all you can say about her,” junior forward Annie Nelson said.
The Buckeyes recognized early on that Davenport was having her way inside with Wisconsin’s posts, and they found her often off penetration.
Ohio State as a team tallied 21 assists, with senior guard Ashley Allen dishing a game-high eight of her own.
With the Buckeyes committing three turnovers to start the game and missing their first two shots, they trailed Wisconsin 3-0 early. But Davenport finally got Ohio State on the scoreboard at the 16:51 mark of the first half by netting her first two points from the free throw line.
Davenport’s free throws fueled a 28-7 run which allowed the Buckeyes to take a 30-12 lead that seemed insurmountable. After the Badgers cut the lead to nine on an Ebba Gebisa hoop and foul, Davenport keyed another Ohio State run to put the game out of reach. The standout center poured in 10 points during an 18-4 Buckeye run over the next six minutes to give Ohio State its biggest lead of the game, 23 points, at 65-42.
“If you can limit Davenport’s touches, I thought we did,” Stone said. “However, then help comes, we foul, and once you figure out you really shouldn’t try to block her shot, because you can’t reach it. You’re going to hit her elbow and you’re going to put her at the free throw line.”
What made Ohio State even more dangerous was that all of their other players looked for their shots as well. Senior guard Caity Matter scored 14 points, and sophomore guard Brandie Hoskins added 12 points to keep Wisconsin from closing the gap.
Fueled by Davenport’s offensive heroics, the Buckeyes ratcheted up their defensive effort as well. With Ohio State leading the rebounding battle, the Badgers could ill afford to turn the ball over. But the Buckeyes forced 21 turnovers, which led to 26 Ohio State points, 18 of them on the fast break.
Reserve guard Kim Wilburn was the culprit of seven of those steals, as the Buckeyes picked up 15 total. Though the Badgers played the Buckeyes nearly even in the second half, with Ohio State outscoring Wisconsin just 41-38, Davenport and the Buckeyes had done too much damage in the opening stanza, and Wisconsin dropped its sixth Big Ten conference game of the season.