Notre Dame downed Ohio State 57-51 in the women’s basketball season opener for both teams Friday night off the coast of Charleston, S.C.
The seventh-ranked Fighting Irish never trailed in the second half, but they could never put the 19th-ranked Buckeyes away, either.
Ohio State senior guard Tayler Hill scored a game-high 20 points despite struggling from the floor and perhaps the elements as the teams played on the deck of the U.S.S. Yorktown.
The Buckeyes shot just 36.4 percent (20 for 55) from the floor, but that bested the Fighting Irish, who went 18 for 55 (32.7 percent).
The differences in the contest came mostly at the free throw line, where Notre Dame went 21 for 24 and Ohio State was just 9 for 15.
The Buckeyes nabbed 13 steals, but their peskiness on defense was offset by the work of the Irish at the charity stripe as well as on the glass. Notre Dame pulled down 41 rebounds compared to 30 by Ohio State.
Ohio State took an 18-15 lead with a free throw by Stokes with 5:46 to go, but the Fighting Irish scored 10 of the next 12 points to open up a five-point lead.
Senior All-America guard Skylar Diggins started the run with a pair of free throws that brought the Irish within one point. They took the lead on a jumper by Kayla McBride, but that was short-lived as Ohio State center Ashley Adams answered with a basket in the lane.
Notre Dame responded with the next six points, starting with a Madison Cable fastbreak layup as the Irish pushed the ball hard following Adams’ basket.
After a pair of Ohio State turnovers, Diggins scored on a driving bank shot, and Markisha Wright pushed the Notre Dame lead to five with a layup with 41 seconds to go in the half.
The Buckeyes stopped the run with an Adams layup 24 seconds later, and the OSU center put an exclamation point on the half by swatting a Diggins layup in the final seconds.
That was the fifth block of the half for Adams, who led the Buckeyes with 10 points on 5 of 7 shooting in the first half.
Hill added five points but struggled to find a rhythm on offense. The senior guard was just 2 for 9 from the floor in the first half and picked up an offensive foul on a drive to the basket late in the half.
Forward Darryce Moore was one of two new starters for the Buckeyes – joining guard Raven Ferguson – and had four points in the half with a pair of early baskets as they struggled to get going.
Notre Dame had early leads of 5-0 and 11-6. The Buckeyes overcame the later deficit with a 6-0 run that gave them their first lead. Stokes got that started with a pull-up jumper and Martina Ellerbe followed with a put-back of an Ameryst Alston miss. They took their first lead of the game (12-11) on an Adams bank shot, but that advantage was short-lived.
Notre Dame started the second half on a 10-3 run to open up a 10-point lead, but the Buckeyes did not fold.
Stokes started the comeback with an old-fashioned three-point play, and they would eventually draw within two on a pair of free throws by Alston.
The teams then traded baskets before a pair of Natalie Achonwa free throws pushed the Notre Dame lead back to four at 41-37 with 10:07 to go.
The difference in the score was never more than eight or less than three the rest of the way as the Buckeyes hung around but could not get over the hump.
Stokes brought them within three when she picked off a pass and went the other way for a layup that made it 48-45 with 4:33 to go, but that was as close as the Buckeyes would get.
They got a stop at the other end but turned the ball over on an offensive foul on Ashley Adams away from the basket, then Achonwa pushed the lead back to five with a scoop shot in the lane with 3:40 left.
Hill made a trey with 36 seconds to go that made it a five-point game, but the McBride made two free throws and Hill was called for traveling to essentially end the Buckeyes’ attempted comeback.
Adams, who was scoreless in the second half, had a team-high nine rebounds and blocked five shots while Stokes added eight points and Moore had seven.
Achonwa led Notre Dame with 17 points while McBride had 16 and Diggins finished with 11. Jewel Loyd led all rebounders with 10 caroms.