Ohio State’s women’s basketball team took full advantage of its only exhibition game on Sunday, as the No. 10 Buckeyes showcased their newfound depth in a lopsided 113-61 victory over Division II school Ursuline College.
In total, 13 Buckeyes played, eight of whom played at least 10 minutes. This starkly contrasts last season’s preseason game against Eckerd College in which only seven players on an injury-ravaged OSU team saw the court.
“I think it’s going to be a great thing knowing we have a lot of people who can come in and give their energy,” sophomore guard and Big Ten preseason player of the year Kelsey Mitchell said.
As expected, the bigger, faster Buckeyes dominated Ursuline offensively, smashing last season’s average of 81 points per game. Senior guard Ameryst Alston led OSU with 17 points, but she was just one of seven players to score double-digits.
Alston also kept her teammates involved, tying Mitchell — who added 15 points herself — with eight assists. OSU racked up 26 assists, more than the 15.3 it averaged last season.
Much of the Scarlet and Gray’s success came from the interior, as 6-foot-3 sophomore forward Alexa Hart, 6-foot-2 junior forward Shayla Cooper and 6-foot-6 redshirt junior center Lisa Blair took full advantage of their size. OSU scored 62 points in the paint, as the trio of Hart, Cooper and Blair scored 14, 10 and nine points, respectively.
Blair also gathered 10 rebounds, with four coming on the offensive end. Hart, who started 32 of OSU’s 35 games last season, said she was glad to finally be joined by a mix of fellow post players after standing as one of the only bigs playing major minutes a season ago.
“It’s kind of exciting to know that I don’t always have to kill myself out there. Just to know that there are other people who can do the same thing that I can do,” Hart said.
Hart and Cooper were joined in the starting lineup with Mitchell, Alston and senior guard Cait Craft.
Despite holding Ursuline to 61 points, coach Kevin McGuff and the Buckeyes said they were not satisfied with their performance. Entering the summer, OSU knew improvement on the defensive end would be necessary to reach its goals, and McGuff still saw room to get better on Sunday.
“We gave up a few too many drives to the basket, and that impacts your rebounding. I didn’t think our communication was good either,” McGuff said.
OSU used its speed and size advantage to outrebound Ursuline 45-40.
Entering last season, McGuff implemented a full-court press defense emphasizing ball-pressure and turnovers. With more depth and a year of experience in the system under their belts, the Buckeyes took full advantage forcing 33 turnovers and scoring 46 points off them. McGuff said he was not aware of the turnovers leading to points but he was not surprised.
“We have a team that, when we do turn somebody over, we have a lot of offensive weapons so we can turn those into points,” McGuff said.
Seven OSU players tallied at least one steal, with Mitchell and sophomore guard Asia Doss leading the team with two apiece.
The largest cheers from the crowd on the afternoon came when those returning from injuries entered the game, and later when they scored.
Redshirt freshman guard Kianna Holland, redshirt freshman forward Chelsea Mitchell and redshirt freshman forward Makayla Waterman returned from torn ACL injuries. Redshirt junior Kalpana Beach returned after being sidelined with arthroscopic knee surgery.
When Chelsea Mitchell made a 3-pointer with 1:33 remaining in the game, many of the 3,824 who remained in attendance rose to their feet and cheered.
“These kids have worked so hard to get to this point,” said McGuff. “It’s really gratifying to see them take that effort onto the court and impact our team in such a positive way.”
Steep uptick in competition
The Buckeyes used the opportunity against Ursuline to play a game against a team of players in another uniform without the score or statistics truly counting. OSU had a major size, speed and depth advantage from beginning to end. Since it was an exhibition game and the end result is not a main concern, McGuff was able to try different lineups and mess with his rotation.
McGuff and the Buckeyes will not enjoy that luxury when their season begins on Nov. 13.
OSU opens the regular season on the road against South Carolina, which finished last season 34-3 and earned a trip to the Final Four. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Following the South Carolina game, the Scarlet and Grey are set to host the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies, who finished last season 38-1, on Nov. 16 at the Schottenstein Center. Tipoff is slated for 5:30 p.m.