The No. 7 Ohio State women’s basketball team (0-2) fell behind early and never so much as threatened a comeback as No. 1 Connecticut (1-0) dominated the Buckeyes, winning 100-56.
“We got our a– kicked out there,” a disappointed OSU coach Kevin McGuff said following the loss. “They coached better, they played better, they were more prepared, they deserved to win by the margin they did.”
OSU, playing its home opener, struggled with the two-time reigning national champion’s across-the-board talent, never looking confident on offense or defense. All five Huskie starters scored double digits, including reigning AP player of the year Breanna Stewart, who led the team with 24 points while tacking on nine rebounds.
Everything that could go wrong for the Buckeyes went wrong. OSU won the tip, but UConn stole the ball and scored its first of many points off a turnover. Less than two minutes into the game, McGuff was forced to call a timeout as UConn led 7-0, capitalizing on three quick OSU turnovers.
Two and a half minutes into the game, sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell, who scored 36 points in OSU’s first game of the season at South Carolina, committed her second foul and was subbed out.
The Huskies led 24-15 after the first quarter before holding the Buckeyes to just nine points in the second quarter, extending their lead and heading into halftime up 50-24. Despite a seemingly insurmountable cushion, UConn did not relent, furthering its 26-point lead to 44 points by the time the final buzzer sounded.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma noted the game film of OSU playing against South Carolina as a motivating factor for his players.
“When I saw it was like 47-45 at halftime, I just shook my head and said, ‘this is going to be hard.’ So when we showed some of that stuff to our players, they got the message,” Auriemma said.
UConn held OSU’s top offensive threats, Mitchell and senior guard Ameryst Alston, to just 15 combined points on 2-of-14 and 3-of-13 shooting, respectively. Much of their struggles were due to the Huskies’ impressive defense, as sophomore guard Gabby Williams registered four steals and senior guard Moriah Jefferson played lockdown defense on Mitchell.
Rebounding remained a massive issue for the Buckeyes.
After OSU’s 88-80 loss to No. 2 South Carolina, the Buckeyes pointed to rebounding as an area of emphasis that needs to improve. The Gamecocks outrebounded OSU 51-42 and grabbed 16 offensive boards. On Monday, OSU failed to improve in this area.
UConn outrebounded the Scarlet and Gray 49-28. The Huskies also grabbed 12 offensive rebounds, while OSU managed only 18 defensive boards. UConn’s interior dominance was not just felt on the boards, but on offense as it scored 46 points in the paint compared to OSU’s 26.
Shayla Cooper’s redemption
Against South Carolina, junior forward Shayla Cooper struggled mightily on offense, shooting 2-of-17. She bounced back with a strong offensive output against UConn, leading OSU with 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
“I think Friday night at South Carolina (didn’t represent) the player that she is and who she’s been in the preseason this year. It was great to see her bouncing back,” McGuff said.
When the Buckeyes struggled to score early in the game and Mitchell sidelined with two fouls, Cooper came through, scoring nine points in the first quarter. She grabbed all three of her offensive rebounds in the first frame, cleaning up her own and her teammates’ misses.
Leading up to OSU’s first two games of the season against the nation’s top-two ranked teams, McGuff and his players repeatedly noted the importance of learning from the games, win or lose.
Having lost both, once in a close battle versus South Carolina and another in a blowout to UConn, the Buckeyes must put their words into practice or possibly suffer down the road from not learning valuable lessons.
“One of two things is going to happen,” McGuff said. “We’re going to stick around and sulk about it or we’re going to assess where we are, where we need to get better, and start to improve.”
Cooper, looking down the road, said she hopes to get a second shot at the Huskies down the road in the NCAA tournament.
“We don’t like to lose against teams twice, so I feel if we see them again, it’s going to be a different outcome,” Cooper said.
OSU’s schedule: It gets easier
The Buckeyes looked to challenge themselves in the early, nonconference portion of the season. Just two games into the year, OSU has faced three preseason AP All-Americans: Stewart, Jefferson, and senior South Carolina forward Tiffany Mitchell. OSU’s Kelsey Mitchell was also named a preseason AP All-American.
On Friday, the Buckeyes played No. 2 South Carolina in their season opener, falling 88-80. Then, on Monday, OSU fell to No. 1 Connecticut in its home opener.
The Buckeyes, searching for their first win, will face three unranked teams before ratcheting the competition up, once again. Following the short stretch of unranked opponents, OSU plays No. 12 Texas A&M in Las Vegas on Nov. 28 as part of the South Point Shootout. Then, OSU heads to South Bend, Indiana, to take on No. 3 Notre Dame.
The Buckeyes are set to continue their season on Thursday when they host Belmont (2-0) at the Schottenstein Center at 7 p.m.