The postseason is upon the Ohio State women’s basketball team. It’s the time of the year that every team plays for. One loss is all it takes to dash a team’s desires.
For OSU, that second season begins with the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse this weekend.
No. 9 OSU enters the tournament hungry for wins and a chance to play for the hardware. The Buckeyes are the second seed in the tournament, which earns it a two-round bye. That rest could provide the Buckeyes a little bit of time to regroup after a tough end to their regular season.
“We have a great opportunity heading to Indianapolis. It’s going to be a competitive tournament,” OSU coach Kevin McGuff said. “We had a tough week last week, but we control our destiny, and I think we can beat anybody that we are going to play if we have the right mindset and we really compete to win.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to kick off their tournament journey Friday night at 6:30 p.m. against the winner of a game between Rutgers and Nebraska. OSU beat both teams handily during the regular season.
The contest between the Scarlet Knights and the Huskers is scheduled for Thursday evening, and the Buckeyes will have their eyes glued to the television to scout their two possible opponents.
OSU is not satisfied with completing the regular season on a two-game losing streak, sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell said. The Buckeyes first lost to Minnesota in overtime and then to Michigan State in triple overtime in the finale. However, Mitchell said they have put the past behind them and have been focused on the task at hand.
“We didn’t have the week we wanted to have,” she said. “It’s just one of those things where we have to turn the page. We have to get back to how things were.”
Rutgers enters the Big Ten tournament as the No. 10 seed with hope to prove itself to the rest of the conference.
Coming off a 72-50 win over Michigan, the Scarlet Knights have a lot of confidence. They lean on senior forward Kahleah Copper, who averages 17.3 points per game and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors.
Against the Buckeyes, Copper scored 19 points in the first meeting and 18 the second. The Philadelphia native is known for her ability to drive to the basket and finish with authority.
Copper’s counterpart is junior guard Tyler Scaife, who was also selected to the All-Big Ten second team. The speedy Scaife averages 17.6 points per game and has had OSU’s number this season, putting up 27 points when visiting Columbus earlier in the year. When OSU traveled to Piscataway, New Jersey, a couple of weeks later, Scaife contributed 13 points and four assists.
If Rutgers is the team OSU plays on Friday, the Buckeyes will likely put their focus on stopping Copper and Scaife in order to come out on top.
Nebraska is full of standout players who could potentially give the Buckeyes trouble if the Cornhuskers defeat Rutgers on Thursday. The No. 7 seed enters the tournament on the heels of a 76-67 victory over Northwestern on Sunday afternoon.
Nebraska forward Jessica Shepard was awarded Big Ten Freshman of the Year, as she averaged 19.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-4 forward is adept at scoring down low and has proven to be one of the top post players in the conference throughout the course of the season.
Last time out against the Buckeyes, Shepard dropped 20 points, all of which came inside the paint.
On Monday night, the Big Ten announced its all-conference teams, and four Buckeyes were chosen.
Joining Mitchell, a unanimous selection, on the first-team is senior guard Ameryst Alston.
Alston is No. 7 in scoring in the Big Ten with 19.5 points per game, while also being tied for 10th in the Big Ten in assists with 3.9 dimes per game.
“I appreciate that award,” Alston said. “It’s not something that we really pay attention to, but I am grateful that I was chosen.”
The second-team All-Big Ten squad included junior forward Shayla Cooper and sophomore forward Alexa Hart.
Hart was also named to the All-Big Ten defensive team. She has been the defensive anchor for the Buckeyes this season, swatting away 2.6 shots per game.
Despite the individual accolades that they receive, McGuff said his team is more focused on winning games.
“They are into the team stuff and they want the team to do well, and that’s what makes them great kids and great players,” McGuff said.
The Buckeyes will look to have a productive Thursday prior to hopping on the bus to Indianapolis. If they win Friday, the tournament semifinal is set for the next day.