There’s a good reason why Tayler Hill never came off the court at McCarthey Athletic Center on Monday night.
The Ohio State senior guard made all the big plays down the stretch as her Buckeyes, just voted out of the Associated Press Top 25, held off Gonzaga 65-60.
Hill scored a game-high 25 points, 12 more than any other player, and kept the Bulldogs (9-3) at bay in the final 2 minutes with a steal, offensive rebound, layup and 6-of-6 shooting at the line.
The stellar, 40-minute effort came two days after Hill and the Buckeyes (7-3) lost 62-55 at Washington State. In that game, Hill shot 3 of 17 from the field and 0 of 9 on 3-pointers.
Against Gonzaga, Hill finished 6 of 12 from the floor, 12 of 12 from the free-throw line and led all players with nine rebounds despite her 5-foot-10 stature.
“Just being an overall player is my main thing,” Hill said. “Scoring, you can’t always score. You saw that in the (WSU) game. The shots aren’t always going to fall, so you have to find another way to contribute to the team.”
“(Hill) struggled Saturday down at Pullman, but we knew a great player like that … wasn’t going to struggle two games in a row,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. “I thought we did a good job early on her, but she just kind of had her way with us.”
Gonzaga was the early aggressor, taking its biggest lead (19-10) with 6:30 left in the first half.
Hill had just four points at that stage, but she closed out the half with a breakaway layup, a 3-pointer and a driving layup. Ohio State took its first lead (25-23) with 54 seconds left in the half.
Gonzaga showed offensive balance in the first half, but no Bulldog had more than four points at the intermission.
“Quite frankly, we don’t have players that are separating themselves from everyone else,” Graves said. “You might call it depth. You might call it somebody has to win those spots.”
The Buckeyes, with 6-5 Ashley Adams and 6-4 Aleksandra Dobranic, started finding points inside during the first part of the second half. Ohio State twice built seven-point leads and held a 47-41 edge with 9:43 left.
GU forged a 47-all tie with 7:15 left, highlighted by Elle Tinkle’s steal and assist to Kiara Kudron for a layup, and Haiden Palmer’s driving layup.
Hill had a jumper and assisted on Amber Stokes’ layup as the Buckeyes moved back ahead 54-47 with 5:53 to go.
Gonzaga twice came within one point, at 54-53 on two free throws by Taelor Karr with 4:21 left, and at 61-60 on Palmer’s 3-pointer with 26 seconds left.
But the last four points belonged to Hill.
“There’s a great environment here, a great atmosphere here, and if we would have fed into that … it would have been ugly,” Hill said.
“We just didn’t make the plays down the stretch when we really needed to make that one stop or get that one rebound on the free-throw line when we were down one,” Graves said.