Ohio State women top Va., make Final Four

March 28, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

RICHMOND, Va. -- Surely, there must be an easier, less RTC emotionally taxing way to earn a trip to the Final Four than the way third-ranked Ohio State's women's basketball team chose to beat No. 9 Virginia, 75-73, in the East Regional final yesterday.

The Buckeyes, who bounced back from a 15-13 season to their first Final Four appearance, missed three of four free throws in the last 31 seconds, saw a miracle three-pointer that would have ended their season waived off because of a timeout and turned the ball over to the Cavaliers in the last second of the game on the defensive end of the court.

But since style points aren't awarded for the way you win, the Buckeyes (27-3) will take this, the first-ever trip to the national semifinals for the Big Ten Conference, just the way it was earned, thank you.

"We were able to hang on despite our free-throw shooting in the last 1 1/2 minutes," said Ohio State coach Nancy Darsch. "Our players decided they weren't going to give it away."

For the Cavaliers (26-6), Atlantic Coast Conference champions who were turned away in their bid for a fourth consecutive Final Four trip, the loss was among the cruelest.

Virginia coach Debbie Ryan said: "I felt we played hard. . ., but I didn't feel like we were as tuned in to things as we normally are. Their seniors played with a lot of heart and desire."

Indeed, the Buckeyes senior backcourt of Audrey Burcy and Averrill Roberts picked up the pace on an afternoon when freshman phenom Katie Smith was off her game with just 14 points -- 21 fewer than she had against Virginia in Ohio State's 91-84 win in January.

Burcy, who had 20 points to earn Most Outstanding Player honors for the tournament, made a key steal of an inbounds play with 3:23 left in the game and got the lay-up to give Ohio State a six-point lead.

Roberts, who had 25 points, got a big basket with a minute left, scoring on a tough runner across the lane with just one second on the shot clock, to give the Buckeyes a four-point lead. It would be their last basket, but it provided the margin of victory.

"I was going to take a three [pointer], but I hadn't much luck with that, so I thought I'd better go to the penetration," said Roberts.

After Roberts' basket, the two teams contributed enough drama to fill a couple of television miniseries.

The most dramatic of those came after Smith, the national Freshman of the Year, missed a free throw with the Buckeyes leading by just two.

The Cavaliers, the second seed, rebounded and Virginia freshman Jenny Boucek dribbled upcourt shakily, while the Virginia bench frantically signaled for a timeout.

Virginia freshman Jenny Boucek dribbled up the court shakily and the Cavalier coaching staff frantically signaled for a timeout.

However, the two-person officiating crew did not recognize Ryan until after Boucek had passed to senior Dena Evans.

Evans, who sank clutch three-pointers against Clemson and Maryland in the ACC tournament, hit another which would have given the Cavaliers the lead.

L But it came after the officials gave Virginia their timeout.

"The timeout was being called long before the ball got into Dena's hand. She [referee June Courteau] wouldn't give it to me. Nobody would even look at me," said Ryan.

That left just 00.6 seconds for a last-gasp play. However, forward Amy Lofstedt threw away an inbounds pass and all seemed lost.

But Ohio State, which squandered a 13-point first-half lead, gave Virginia one last chance to win or tie, but with only one-tenth of a second left on the clock.

Roberts caught the inbounds pass from Smith, but stepped out of bounds, turning it over to Virginia. However, on the ensuing play, Smith, guarding Lofstedt, the inbounds passer, leaped and blocked the pass back onto the floor and Ohio State had earned a ticket to Atlanta.

"We will certainly look ahead [to the Final Four], but not until tomorrow. We will enjoy this," said Darsch.

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