Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff has noticed a trend with his team.

When the Buckeyes are making shots, McGuff said, their defense is locked in. But when the shots aren’t falling, he said, the defense dips.

“I think right now our defense is being driven on how well we do on offense, and that’s a really, really dangerous way to play the game,” McGuff said after an underwhelming 85-76 win over Washington on Sunday.

In the offseason, the Buckeyes emphasized rectifying their defense, which allowed 71.4 points per game last season, ranking 313th among Division I's 345 teams. A stretch of three games in three days, beginning Thursday, will test the Buckeyes’ fortitude, especially in stopping opponents.

Ninth-ranked Ohio State is in Las Vegas to participate in the Play4Kay tournament. It opens at 6 p.m. Thursday against Memphis (1-3). On Friday, the Buckeyes will play DePaul or Florida Gulf Coast; both are receiving votes in the national polls.

The other side of the bracket features No. 14 Stanford, Kent State, Gonzaga and Belmont. The Buckeyes could have a rematch with the Cardinal after defeating Stanford 85-64 in the season opener at home.

For McGuff and the Buckeyes, this tournament will be about not only fine-tuning their defense but putting it together for three consecutive games.

“We have to take pride in our defense,” senior guard Asia Doss said. “It’s the little things that top-tier teams don’t get wrong. And that's one of the other things that we have to correct, and I think we’re doing a good job trying to correct that. We came into practice Tuesday, and we were really detail-oriented, and that's what we need to do. We’ve got to amp it up.”

Another point of emphasis for will be getting Sierra Calhoun’s game in gear.

The redshirt junior is in a shooting slump, making only 26.2 percent of her shots from the field and only 17.6 percent (6 of 34) from three-point range. Calhoun made 38.6 percent (68 of 176) of her three-pointers last season, leading all the Buckeyes who had at least 20 attempts.

McGuff believes the best way for Calhoun to break out of her slump is to keep on firing.

“She’s a little bit of a rhythm player,” McGuff said. “When she gets hot, she feels great about it, and she is a great shooter. That’s where she’s just got to grow a little. And I want her to continue to shoot the ball because when she’s open, I think she’s one of the best shooters in the country.

“I think she’s just putting a lot of pressure on herself because she so badly wants to contribute in positive ways. She’s just got to push through that and continue to take good shots.”

jhorton@dispatch.com

@joshhorton22