Ohio State’s then-freshman forward Dorka Juhasz (14) goes up for the shot in the game against Penn State on Feb 6. Ohio State won 78-73. Credit: Cori Wade | Assistant Photo Editor

Coming off an 81-point win over Urbana in an exhibition game Sunday, Ohio State women’s basketball is now looking forward to its season opener at the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame Classic, hosted by Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio.

The Buckeyes will face off against Valparaiso Sunday.

With 90 combined points against Urbana, the Buckeye freshmen made their talent known on the court, but adjusting to this weekend’s preparation after a blowout win may prove to be a challenge.

Head coach Kevin McGuff said he doesn’t want his players to have a false impression that what came easy to them Sunday will happen again this week, especially with the influx of new players. The exhibition against Urbana showcased Ohio State’s talent, but McGuff said he knows the team has more to accomplish in order to have a winning style of basketball. 

“We have an extremely long way to go in terms of just building a system that can be successful,” McGuff said. 

Freshman guard Madison Greene said that in preparation for their season opener, the Buckeyes have been working on defensive breakdowns and being in the right place at the right time. She said that in the preseason, McGuff pushed for a faster style of play than the players experienced in high school, but was good about allowing them to learn from their mistakes.

“He knows we’re going to mess up, so it feels good that we know we’re going to mess up, but we’ll be OK,” Greene said. “We’re just getting better from the mess-ups.”

Sophomore guard Janai Crooms said the team has been implementing this faster playing style, and she’s had to be smarter about knowing what move to make and when. She had five turnovers against Urbana.

“I just always think of what coach McGuff says,” Crooms said. “He always says, ‘Keep a fast pace, but that fast pace doesn’t mean rush everything.’” 

McGuff said Valparaiso is not an easy team to play against, as it plays with a lot of spacing and shoots a lot of 3-pointers, which will be a challenge for the Buckeyes. 

Despite going 8-24 this past season, Valparaiso returns its leading scorer in redshirt junior guard Allison Stoller, who put up 12.8 points per game during the 2018-19 season. Stoller also led the team with 6.6 rebounds per game and 67 steals.

Following a 24-point loss to South Florida in this past year’s opener, Crooms said it will be important to push through challenges for the team to be successful this time around. 

“Coming off strong and just staying together through adversity, that’s what I’m thinking we need to keep in the back of our heads,” Crooms said. “Especially this year with a young group.”

Tip-off between the Buckeyes and Crusaders starts at 2 p.m. Sunday in Springfield, Ohio.