As of late, success has been routine for the No. 7 Ohio State (19-4, 11-1) women’s basketball team, winning its last seven contests and continuing to prove that it deserves to be mentioned among the top teams in the country.
The Buckeyes now sit in first place of the Big Ten and are gearing up to continue their journey on the road against Iowa (15-9, 5-7) on Thursday. The match that will be taking place at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena is set to tip off at 8:30 p.m.
Last year, the series between the Buckeyes and the Hawkeyes went in favor of the Scarlet and Gray 2-1, with the final meeting occurring during the postseason in the Big Ten tournament. The semifinal game went into overtime, where the Buckeyes were able to march onto victory and into the championship game of the tournament, which they would later lose to Maryland.
Just like all other Big Ten schools, it is not easy to come out triumphant in Iowa. In fact, ever since coach Kevin McGuff has been at the helm of the OSU women’s basketball program, he has not won at Iowa.
“It’s a really difficult place to play, they have an excellent team and they are very well-coached,” McGuff said prior to practice Wednesday evening.
Iowa is a dangerous team, and McGuff told his squad right after upsetting No. 5 Maryland on Monday night that it needed to refocus for the upcoming matchup against the Hawkeyes.
OSU will have to keep its eye out for Hawkeye junior guard Ally Disterhoft, who has been averaging 16.8 points per game. Disterhoft, who grew up in the same town as the University of Iowa, has a multitude of weapons in her repertoire and possesses the ability to score off the dribble and pull up from behind the arc, also earning many trips to the charity stripe.
“Ally is a great fit in their system and difficult to guard,” McGuff said. “I don’t know if we are going to stop her, but we are at least going to make her earn everything she gets.”
The Buckeyes now have a record of 5-3 on the road, as they have made improvements on their away-game performances. McGuff stressed at the end of Wednesday’s practice about having energy from the tip and keeping that energy alive throughout the entire 40 minutes of play.
Pressure continues to build
With only six games left to play in the regular season and sitting in first place, the Buckeyes are aware of the increased pressure and the target that they have become not only in the Big Ten, but also around the entire country.
“Everyone is going to want to beat us,” senior guard Cait Craft said. “I feel like everyone plays their best game against us … and beating Maryland the other night is just going to make it harder.”
After not having much of an issue defeating Maryland (21-3, 10-2) 94-86 Monday night, it is apparent that OSU has emerged as the conference’s team to beat, but the Buckeyes have been focused on their own game and how to continue to make improvements heading into postseason play.
“We try to stay focused day by day, and game by game,” McGuff said. “It’s such a difficult league to try to have success in … it’s still early February, and we have a long way to go.”
“Happy Valley” up next
Following the Thursday night showdown against Iowa, the Buckeyes are scheduled to head east to Penn State (8-15, 3-9) to challenge the Nittany Lions at their home court.
Penn State will be coming back home after its game Thursday with Michigan State. Nearing the bottom of the conference in the standings, the Nittany Lions are looking to make a small run in their final six games to earn a higher seed in March’s Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.
The last time the Buckeyes were in State College, Pennsylvania, they were able to come out with an 18-point win, 88-70.
The Sunday meeting is set to tip off at 2 p.m.