When a team is dominating opponents in basketball, the best thing for it to do to maintain its edge is … lose?
That’s right. Losing can be very beneficial to a team that gets too comfortable winning easily.
In women’s basketball, some teams have been able to go undefeated and win a national championship, but that is not common. Connecticut is the only team to do so in the last seven years, winning it all while remaining unbeaten last season.
Not including Connecticut, championship teams have an average of three losses in each of the last seven years.
Ohio State women’s basketball has made it into the NCAA Tournament each of the last seven seasons. Of those appearances, two have resulted in Sweet 16 berths, their deepest runs in the tournament over that span.
These seasons occurred in ‘05, with four losses recorded, and ’09, with five losses. Those seasons compare very similarly to this season in the loss column, both in how the team lost and in number.
They lost to Duke, a ranked team, after having a big win against California, ranked No. 15 at the time. Their losses against Purdue and Indiana came after a big win against Michigan and a blowout win over Minnesota.
Last year’s team won the remainder of its games after two in-conference losses. This year’s team lost two games at about the same point in the year and is doing everything it can to not lose again.
Center Jantel Lavender was so intent on improving after the loss to Purdue that coach Jim Foster said she stayed an hour after practice working to get better.
“I hate to have a loss to have to learn something or go through ironing out team differences or ironing out little tweaks or minor things that can change the outcome of a game,” Lavender said. “It’s really frustrating to have to go through losing a game and … bringing a lot of things to light that you can really take care of before a loss happens in a game where it can be the difference between winning and losing.”
Following the loss at Indiana, the team was more focused than ever. Every answer that players or coaches gave reporters involved improving the team and becoming better players.
“We just know that there are things that we need to change and focus in on … we’re making sure we’re doing what we need to do,” center Andrea Walker said. “Attention to detail. We watch ourselves on film and see things we should have done and things that we weren’t doing right.”
Since the team lost two of three games a couple weeks ago, it has won both of its games against Iowa and Penn State. More importantly, the Buckeyes are looking like the team that began the year 20-1 by scoring more than 80 points a game and having a sizeable advantage in rebounds.
All of this improvement — and it only took two losses that shocked the focus right back into the team.