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Catching up with Ohio State sports played over winter break

OSU sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate (1) dribbles the ball during a game against Northern Illinois on Dec. 16 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor

OSU sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate (1) dribbles the ball during a game against Northern Illinois on Dec. 16 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor

While The Lantern and the Ohio State student body were taking a few weeks to unwind on winter break, several ongoing athletic programs were still in action.

Since the last print issue of The Lantern on Dec. 8, six major OSU teams — football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s ice hockey and wrestling — played through the new year. While most readers likely are well aware of the football team’s 44-28 Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame on New Year’s Day, here are how the other five programs fared.

Men’s basketball

After a start to the season that could described anywhere from “dreadful” to “rocky,” the young OSU men’s basketball team finally started to find its identity until a devastating loss over the weekend left the team wondering how it will respond.

When The Lantern paused publication for winter break on Dec. 8, the Buckeyes were 4-4, easily the worst start in coach Thad Matta’s tenure.

But a win that evening over Air Force put OSU back over .500. Though a blowout loss at Connecticut followed, the Scarlet and Gray made an unpredictable run from that point.

A win over Northern Illinois was expected, but the Buckeyes shocked the college basketball world with a 74-67 win over then-No. 4 Kentucky in Brooklyn, New York.

Five more wins followed to extend their winning streak to seven games and improving their record to a respectable 11-5, leading some to believe if the team has gotten its act together as Big Ten play arrived.

But an embarrassing 85-60 loss at Indiana on Sunday silenced most of those murmurs, at least for the time being. The Buckeyes were trounced by the Hoosiers from the get-go and trailed 48-18 at the half.

While the team was enjoying its winning ways, one freshman exited the program while another entered.

Guard Austin Grandstaff announced on Dec. 17 that he would be seeking a transfer, which was later revealed to be to Oklahoma. A day later, however, forward Mickey Mitchell was cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center to play following a month-and-a-half-long pause. Mitchell made his debut on Dec. 23 and has played in six games, averaging 2.5 rebounds per game.

Matta’s squad is set to return to action on Wednesday against Rutgers. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.

Women’s basketball

The cold weather is finally arriving in Columbus, but the OSU women’s basketball team is on the opposite end of the spectrum, as it is currently on a major hot streak, just in time for Big Ten play to begin.

Over the break, the Buckeyes played seven games and grabbed victories in all of them, including wins over Princeton, who went 31-1 last season, and then-No. 5 Maryland. The win over the Terrapins was OSU’s first over a top-five team since 2006. The latest victory came Sunday against Rutgers, which moved OSU’s record to 12-3, and a perfect 4-0 within the conference.

OSU sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell (3) dribbles the ball during a game against Rutgers on Jan. 10 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor

OSU sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell (3) dribbles the ball during a game against Rutgers on Jan. 10 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor

In the latest version of the RPI rankings, which came out Monday, the Buckeyes moved up one spot to No. 5, largely thanks to the fact they have won 12 of their last 13 games. The Scarlet and Gray currently are fourth in the country in scoring offense, averaging 86.5 points a contest. That high-powered offense can be attributed to a barrage of reasons, but the play of sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell is certainly the most prevalent one.

Building off her excellent freshman campaign, the preseason All-American is hitting her stride as of late. Mitchell is second in the country in scoring, registering 25 points per game, on 45.8 percent shooting from the floor. The 5-foot-8 Cincinnati native collected the National Player of the Week award for the second time this season on Jan. 4.

The Buckeyes are set to hit the hardwood again Thursday on the road against Northwestern. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m.

Men’s ice hockey

If the start of the OSU men’s basketball team’s season was bad, then there is likely a shortage of words fit for print to describe the men’s ice hockey team’s beginning to the 2015-16 campaign.

The Buckeyes went into their break around the same time as the OSU campus, halting play for about three weeks on Dec. 5. At the time, their record was a paltry 3-11-0 after a pair of overtime losses at Minnesota.

But when the Scarlet and Gray resumed action in the Florida College Classic in Estero, Florida, on Dec. 28, a new team appeared to be lacing up the skates and taking the ice.

OSU freshman forward Freddy Gerard (15) during a game. Credit: Courtesy of Freddy Gerard

OSU freshman forward Freddy Gerard (15) during a game. Credit: Courtesy of Freddy Gerard

In the first game of the four-team tournament, the Buckeyes shook off a 2-0 first-period deficit to score three unanswered goals and stun No. 4 Boston College 3-2. Freshman forward John Wiitala scored the game-winner in the third period, while junior goalie Christian Frey stopped 30 of 32 shots.

The next day, the championship of the tournament pitted OSU against No. 9 Cornell. That game proved to be a laugher, as eight different Buckeyes scored and Frey recorded his first career shutout as the Buckeyes stomped over the Big Red 8-0.

A 2-0 win over Wisconsin followed on Friday, followed by a 4-4 tie the next day, though the Badgers won the shootout.

The Buckeyes are next set for a home-and-home series against Michigan, with the first game on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center, followed by a 5 p.m. Sunday matchup in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Women’s ice hockey

The women’s ice hockey team had a similar schedule to its male opposite but with considerably less optimism emerging.

OSU went into winter break with a pair of losses to Minnesota Duluth at home by scores of 4-2 and 5-2. That put the Buckeyes’ 2015 record at 6-12-0.

The first game after break seemed encouraging, a 2-1 win over Penn State on Jan. 2. But a 3-2 loss to the Nittany Lions followed. And the next weekend, OSU was outscored by No. 3 Minnesota 12-1, including a 9-0 defeat on Sunday. Those two losses brought OSU’s season scoring margin against the Golden Gophers to 30-5 in four games.

Sophomore defenseman Jessica Dunne made her season debut in the first game against Penn State, scoring the game-winning goal in the second period.

The Buckeyes currently sit at just 7-15-0 on the season, and are set to return to the ice at home against St. Cloud State for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively, at the OSU Ice Rink.

Wrestling

OSU then-freshman Kyel Snyder defeated a top-10 opponent against Minnesota, earning the USA Wrestling Athlete of the Week award. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Lantern photographer

OSU then-freshman Kyle Snyder celebrates a victory last season.
Credit: Lantern file photo

The defending national champions had four matches over winter break, going 2-2 in them, but the biggest story surrounding the squad was the news that Kyle Snyder will be rejoining the team beginning in February.

Snyder was intending on using the 2015-16 season as an Olympic redshirt, but on New Year’s Day, coach Tom Ryan announced that the sophomore was altering those plans, instead competing collegiately while still training for the 2016 games in Rio De Janeiro.

His debut is expected to arrive on Feb. 5 when OSU travels to State College, Pennsylvania, to wrestle against top-ranked Penn State. Snyder, who is also set to take to the mat in the Big Ten and NCAA championships, is slated to compete for the Buckeyes in the heavyweight division.

In September, Snyder became the youngest person in U.S. history to capture the World freestyle championship. As a freshman, the Maryland native went 30-4 and was both a Big Ten and NCAA runner-up at 197 pounds.

The Buckeyes (6-2) are currently ranked No. 6, but that position will likely be lower when the newest edition comes out, as their loss to Michigan on Jan. 9 is not yet factored in. Adding Snyder back into the equation is instrumental as OSU quests to hold onto its national title.

OSU is set to continue its season on Sunday against Nebraska. The match is set to begin at 2 p.m. at St. John Arena.

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