If you cannot run for 40 minutes then, simply put, you have something wrong with you. At least that’s what Kevin McGuff thinks.
“They are 18-to-22-year-old people,” the Ohio State women’s basketball coach said. “Sometimes I think it can be overdrawn, the fact that people get tired and worn out.”
Because of many different circumstances ranging from player suspensions to injuries, the Buckeyes have just seven roster members who consistently dress for every game. That puts all the players in a situation where they might be playing the entire game on any given night.
“I think everybody gets pretty tired,” junior guard Ameryst Alston said. “But we are all young and should be able to run so it just comes down to being mentally tough.”
With a limited bench on the OSU sideline, some might think McGuff would try to slow teams down in order to cater to his limited number of subs.
However, McGuff said his intentions are quite the opposite.
“We have proven that even with a short bench, we can play fast and we can play on consecutive days,” he said. “That doesn’t seem to bother us like it does other people.”
Freshman guard Kelsey Mitchell, who averages 36.9 minutes per game, said she loves the fast-paced style of basketball that the Buckeyes have become accustomed to playing.
“The fast-paced game is what I have been raised on so I’m glad I get to stick with it,” Mitchell said. “When I came in, coach McGuff said, ‘We are going to play fast and we are going to do whatever we need to do to play fast.’”
The pace at which the Buckeyes play can frustrate the opposition on the defensive end as teams have trouble keeping up.
“We love the pace,” Alston said. “It’s fun, it’s a lot harder to guard and we try to frustrate teams defensively.”
However, the regular season allows teams to rest between games, as contests do not typically fall on consecutive days.
The Big Ten Tournament opens this week and as the third seed, OSU has a first and second-round bye.
Playing their first game on Friday night will propose a new challenge for the Buckeyes: If all goes according to plan, OSU will have seven players playing at a fast pace for three consecutive days.
McGuff and company are not the least bit worried about becoming fatigued, he said. Rather, they believe that playing like this all season will prove to be an advantage in the end.
“We have a team that is faster and I think more built to win consecutive days in a row,” McGuff said. “It was great for us to get the double bye. It gives us a chance get a little bit of rest and hopefully that will pay dividends as we try to play three days in a row.”
With the amount of improvement the young team has shown, already adding four more wins than last season with tournament play still ahead, the Buckeyes are aware that their shot at a Big Ten title is greater now than at the beginning of the season.
“As a team that is something I am most proud of, we have made significant progress,” McGuff said. “If you watched us in the first week of the season verse now, we are a completely different team.”
McGuff said development is special for this OSU team in particular.
“A lot of teams don’t improve like that and that is a real credit to our kids and their interest in having a special season and growing as individual players,” he said.
The growth has put a Big Ten Championship and an NCAA Tournament berth on the Buckeyes’ radar.
“I think we have a great chance at going far,” Alston said. “Coming into this year, we had a little chip on our shoulder because everyone didn’t necessarily believe in us but we have found ourselves and it’s going to be fun.”
The Buckeyes are set to travel to Hoffman Estates, Ill., on Thursday with their first game of the tournament scheduled for Friday at 9:30 p.m.