In their months-long search for a complete 40 minutes, the Ohio State women’s basketball team need not look further than Feb. 20 of last year.
Hosting Maryland, then the nation’s No. 2 team, the Buckeyes shot 62.3 percent and rebounded from a late third-quarter slump to finish off a 98-87 win and set up a tie with the Terrapins for a share of the Big Ten regular-season title.
“It was just amazing, the amount of focus we had, the amount of effort and intensity that we brought,” senior Linnae Harper said. “All of us that played that game, we just brought. We played together, our chemistry was great and we knew we wanted to win, so we have to approach this upcoming game the same way we approached it last year.”
The No. 8 Buckeyes again face the No. 14 Terrapins on Monday, this time in College Park, Maryland, to kick off what is likely to be their most challenging week of the Big Ten season. After Maryland, Ohio State travels to No. 20 Iowa on Thursday before tipping off at home against Michigan State — the only Big Ten team to defeat Maryland so far this season — a little more than 36 hours later.
Adding to the challenge is that Ohio State (16-3, 5-1) is less than a week removed from one of its most frustrating losses of the season, an 84-75 defeat at home to No. 19 Michigan.
The Buckeyes led at halftime but shot 10 of 39 in a second-half slump that began when the third quarter spiraled out of control on offense.
“In the third quarter, we started with some good shots, some good looks at the basket and didn’t make them and didn’t react well to that,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “I think we then got a little anxious on the offensive end, we allowed a lack of offense to affect our defense and that type of stuff.”
Ohio State hasn’t lost back-to-back games since Nov. 27 and Dec. 1, 2016, and had four practices after the Michigan game to avoid a repeat on Monday.
“We made a lot of mental mistakes versus Michigan, so we’ve got to get our focus back and it just comes with practice,” McGuff said. “We have a really tough stretch coming, starting with a really great Maryland team on Monday, so we have to get better between now and then and we have to get better after that game.”
Losing is awful, McGuff said, and no one hates it more than him. But, he added, if the Buckeyes can come out of a humbling home loss with a renewed sense of energy and focus, maybe there’s a positive to be squeezed out of the defeat.
“That’s hard for me to say, but it’s the reality. That’s what we can do now and that’s what we can control,” he said.
Ohio State learned the hard way on Tuesday that on any given night in a deeper Big Ten, any team can lose.
It’s the same lesson the Buckeyes taught themselves last February against Maryland.
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