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Women’s Basketball: Ohio State opens season against No. 22 South Florida

Ohio State redshirt junior forward Makayla Waterman (24) looks to pass to a teammate in the fourth quarter of the Buckeyes’ semifinal game against Rutgers on March 2 at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Ohio State beat Rutgers 82-57. Credit: Alyssia Graves | Assistant Sports Director

The Ohio State women’s basketball team starts its regular season with a matchup against No. 22 South Florida on Tuesday in the Schottenstein Center, the first of six preseason ranked Top 25 matchups.

The Buckeyes, who come into the season unranked, have a lot to prove after losing over 90 percent of their scoring output from last year with the departures of guard Kelsey Mitchell, forward Stephanie Mavunga and guard Linnae Harper, among others.

Finding a new reliable scoring threat will be one of many things the new-look Buckeyes hope to figure out as the season progresses, with Tuesday’s opener as the first official test of a fresh roster.

Head coach Kevin McGuff acknowledges there are questions that need answers in regard to the new team, but said he sees it as an opportunity for more players to get involved to help the team win.

“We’re still just kind of trying to gel and get things to come together, but we’re going to have to be a really balanced team and we don’t have necessarily that one player that can just go get points,” McGuff said. “We’re going to have to execute well and spread the ball around.”

The Buckeyes were able to spread the ball around during their preseason win over IUP Sunday with a 72-50 victory that saw four separate players score double digits: freshman forward Dorka Juhasz, 14, redshirt senior guard Carly Santoro, 14, freshman guard Janai Crooms, 12 and freshman forward Aaliyah Patty, 12.

A healthy dose of freshman scoring is a good sign for the young team still trying to find its identity.

While Ohio State wasn’t entirely consistent all the way through, the young players made their mark on both sides of the ball, with two big steals and a block from Crooms in the second quarter that began to take the life out of IUP.

There was also a mixture of older help with the scoring outbreak from Santoro, who hit three 3-pointers within three minutes in the third quarter to keep the momentum in favor of Ohio State.

The most ideal situation, McGuff said, is to get all players contributing to the team and ready to make an impact for the best chance at winning, which he saw glimpses of against IUP.

Getting another chance to breed chemistry will do the team some good as the season progresses. Santoro believes the team is beginning to work well together.

“I think we’re gelling really well,” Santoro said. “We’re friends outside of basketball, and basketball we all work really well together. We all want the best for each other.”

This theory will be put to the test against USF, which found itself making an early exit in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season to an upset against No. 11 Buffalo.

Shortly after the battle against USF, the Buckeyes will face Detroit Mercy Nov. 9 at home, followed by a trip to Storrs, Connecticut, to face off against t No. 2 UConn, which has gone to 11 straight Final Fours and has won six of them, on Nov. 11.

The tests of the season begin heavy with two of the first three matchups against highly-ranked opponents, so the fresh-faced Buckeyes will have to learn fast and work together to show what they are made of.

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