No. 12 Ohio State (24-5, 14-1) has one obstacle in its way before the Buckeyes can officially call themselves Big Ten regular-season champions. That obstacle is Rutgers (6-22, 3-11).
Rutgers is on a nine-game losing streak, having not won a game in over a month, and currently sits 13th in the conference standings.
With a Buckeye win on Sunday OSU will claim the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament and win the regular-season conference crown for the first time since the 2009-2010 season.
However, senior forward Shayla Cooper said that the Buckeyes refuse to be complacent looking forward to Rutgers.
“Coach (Kevin McGuff) is getting after it. In his speech after the game he was excited, but then he said ‘You got to stay focused for what’s next, we’re not done yet,’” she said.
OSU beat the Terrapins 98-87 on Monday, ending Maryland’s 14-game winning streak and handing the Terps their second loss of the season.
The Buckeyes shot over 60 percent from the field and over 55 percent from 3-point range in the contest. In OSU’s last eight games they have scored at least 87 points.
Junior forward Sierra Calhoun reaffirmed McGuff’s focus after the Maryland win.
“Coach McGuff said after the game ‘You know that was a great win, but we still got another one to take care of Sunday,’” she said.
Although Rutgers record does not make the case for being a formidable opponent, McGuff said the Scarlet Knights won’t be overlooked.
“They’re a tough, rugged, physical team,” he said. “They throw a variety of defenses at you and they play well at home. They have a lot of pride, and they know what we’re playing for and I think they’re going to do whatever they can to stop that.”
McGuff added that the “process” has been a main focus for the Buckeyes throughout the season, even more so now given the implications of Sunday’s game.
“Stay focused at what we do at practice and how we prepare for games,” he said. “Just keep consistent routine and make it about the process. That’s what we’ve done all year, and that’s what has allowed us to improve as a team. That will allow us to be successful on Sunday if we have a great process between now and then.”
After Monday’s emotional victory over No. 2 Maryland, the Buckeyes have had to refocus with Rutgers being the only thing in the way of obtaining the top seed in the Big Ten tournament. Cooper said a day-by-day approach has kept her and the team focused on the road ahead and not dwelling on past successes.
“This year we’re just looking forward to the next game,” she said. “Maryland was a big win — I celebrated for the night — but when I woke up I’m like, ‘Alright, what’s next?’”
OSU and Rutgers tip at 3 p.m. in Piscataway, New Jersey.