After suffering the first loss of the season to the Duke Blue Devils in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Jim Foster’s previously No. 3 OSU women’s basketball team enters finals week with an 8-1 record.

The Buckeyes will play six games over winter break against opponents from a variety of conferences as well as getting their Big Ten regular season schedule underway.

They will be on the road to play Ole Miss at Oxford, Miss., before returning home to play a string of games against smaller conference opponents Wright State, Alabama A&M and Western Illinois.

Then it’s back on the road to face Illinois and Northwestern in the days following Christmas before coming back to Columbus to take on rival Michigan.

Coach Foster has highlighted his bench and the need for more physicality from the team to come back from the loss and prepare for the coming stretch.

“We didn’t react well to physical play,” Foster said following the loss to Duke. “And we didn’t get any productivity from our bench.”

These will both be key factors if the team is to rebound, mentally and physically, as they look to cash in on their lofty pre-season goals.

All-American center and team captain Jantel Lavender focused on her teams’ turnovers as the reason for the letdown and will look to correct those particular mistakes over the course of the winter break.

“I just think it came down to hustle,” Lavender said. “We were getting beat to the ball and being a little lax. I just think we didn’t execute.”

It was also an off night for point guard Samantha Prahalis. They’ll need Prahalis to step up during the grind of Big Ten conference play.

So as most OSU students finish up finals and head off to enjoy their winter breaks, the Buckeyes will be looking to finish their non-conference schedule strong and show the rest of the Big Ten conference why they were selected as the preseason front runners. That way, when their student fans return to campus, they’ll be back in the driver’s seat.