Coach Kevin McGuff and the Buckeyes enjoyed their Thanksgiving dinner beneath the bright lights of Las Vegas on Thursday. Basketball will provide the dessert over the weekend with a pair of games in the annual South Point Shootout.

Coach Kevin McGuff and the Buckeyes enjoyed their Thanksgiving dinner beneath the bright lights of Las Vegas on Thursday.

Basketball will provide the dessert over the weekend with a pair of games in the annual South Point Shootout.

The 11th-ranked Buckeyes (2-2) meet Liberty (2-2) today and follow that with a Saturday matchup against 10th-ranked Texas A&M (4-0).

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"The teams we're playing are very good," McGuff said. "So it will be challenging from a basketball standpoint. But it's a good opportunity for our kids to see different parts of the country. And you can get some really good games on a neutral floor, which sometimes are not easy to find."

The Buckeyes began the season with losses to No.2 South Carolina and No.1 Connecticut. A positive side exists.

"At least we won't be shocked by the talent or athleticism we see," McGuff said.

Ohio State found its footing in wins over Belmont and Wagner. But McGuff still is waiting for sophomore post Alexa Hart to take flight.

"She's had a lot of foul trouble," he said. "That's not been everything, but it's some of it. She just had a hard time finding her rhythm. We need her. For us to be who we're capable of being, we need her to have a big year."

A season ago, the slender, 6-foot-3 Hart moved into the starting lineup when redshirt sophomore forward Kalpana Beach suffered a knee injury.

As the season progressed, Hart became a force at both ends of the court. She blocked 129 shots, a single-season OSU record. She led the team with 8.9 rebounds per game. She made 62.7 percent of her field-goal attempts and averaged 12.2 points.

Through four games this season, Hart is averaging 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds. She has six blocked shots while committing 11 fouls.

"I think she just needs to focus and remember how good she was at the end of last year," McGuff said. "She was so good."

Hart, of course, is aware of her slow start.

"I felt at the beginning of this year that I was going to keep that rhythm from last year," she said. "But I lost it. I'm trying to get back there again. All I can do is go back in the gym and keep working hard. When I find my rhythm, I can go from there. I'm confident that I'll get there."

Her fouls have happened early and pinned her to the bench.

"That frustrates me a little," Hart said. "I just can't let it do that to me because it takes me out of my game. I have to work on not fouling."

Junior forward Shayla Cooper has picked up some of the slack. She is averaging 9.5 points and 9.3 rebounds.

"It's very helpful knowing that there is actually someone who can do the same things I do or do them better," Hart said. "But I think all the girls are going to help us."

jmassie@dispatch.com

@MassDispatch