by Pat Kindig
Ohio State Athletics
It is almost fitting one of Tamarah Riley’s best games in an Ohio State uniform was overshadowed by a loss Monday at Indiana. She has been cast in the shadows for almost three and a half seasons.
With 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds Monday, Riley confirmed she has emerged from those shadows in her final season at Ohio State.
“If Tam wasn’t here tonight, this game would have been a blowout. She kept us in the game,” Jim Foster, Ohio State head coach, said in the postgame press room. “I did not like us (tonight) from the get-go, except for Tam.”
For three seasons Riley, a senior forward from Detroit, Mich., served as a valuable but undistinguished role player off Foster’s bench. She was the unsung character on a team that won a trio of Big Ten titles and boasted the conference’s only three-time player off the year Jessica Davenport.
Riley’s senior season started in a similar fashion, providing solid defense, strong rebounding and the occasional offensive spurt to complement highly-touted freshman center Jantel Lavender and returning All-Big Ten forward Star Allen.
Circumstances changed at midseason. With Allen out of action for the winter quarter to concentrate on academics, Riley stepped into the starting unit and has displayed how a career of humbleness and perseverance can pay off.
In 17 starts, the engineering major has turned in some of her stronger performances in crucial Big Ten contests. As any coach would love to see from a veteran, Riley has come on down the home stretch. In her last four games, she has posted 44 points and 42 rebounds, offsetting some of the mistakes made by her younger post teammates.
Such was the case Monday in Bloomington.
“Jantel struggled for I think the first time this year and Tam was there to pick up a lot of what was left,” Foster said.
As one would expect, Riley is the consummate team player and her comments after the tough loss exemplified it.
“Personally, I don’t really feel good about the game at all,” Riley, who had 16 points in the first meeting with Indiana in January, said. “If your team loses, you lose too. It doesn’t matter how good you play.”
Riley, normally reserved in personality, has the challenge of leading the Buckeyes to a strong finish to the regular season this week at Penn State Thursday and on senior day Sunday vs. Northwestern at Value City Arena.
“I think that we all need to get in the gym,” Riley said. “We all need to pick it up and look at film and see what we lacked today. We all need to pick it up for the rest of the season.”