INDIANAPOLIS — The sight of Asia Doss in scarlet warm-ups and a walking boot on her right foot could have been unsettling for her Ohio State teammates going into a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal.
Doss, a senior guard, has been something of a Swiss Army knife in doing a little bit of everything while playing 134 straight games.
Before the Buckeyes left for the Big Ten tournament on Thursday, coach Kevin McGuff and trainers decided to sit her against Rutgers because of a sprained ankle suffered late against Penn State in the regular-season finale.
But there was little sweating involved as Kelsey Mitchell scored 22 points, Stephanie Mavunga 18 and Sierra Calhoun 14 in an 82-57 rout of the Scarlet Knights on Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The burning question is whether Doss will play against Minnesota (23-7) in a semifinal Saturday night.
“She has an ankle injury and she’s close,” McGuff said. “If we really, really, really had to play her, there was a chance we could. We’re trying to give her a little bit of rest, so she’s day to day. We have a doctor here and he’ll continue to evaluate her and see if we can get her out there or not this weekend.”
Does McGuff attempt to win the team’s first tournament championship since 2011 by playing Doss, or have her sit again so she can be close to top speed for the NCAA Tournament in two weeks?
“Correct, that’s it exactly because we know if we rest her now we can have her back 100 percent when we play another game after this weekend,” McGuff said.
Doss tried to talk the coaches into allowing her to play to keep her streak intact. She averages 8.0 points, has 51 steals and is vital in the team’s pressing defenses.
Senior forward Alexa Hart was told late Thursday that she would start against Rutgers. She had 10 points and six rebounds in 27 minutes.
Hart showed the experience of 1,110 points and 74 starts in her career. She played even better after the only other true frontcourt players on the roster, Mavunga and Makayla Waterman, were each called for their third fouls in the second quarter.
“I just wanted to go out there and pick up from where Asia started and play with intensity,” Hart said. “I tried to talk (Mavunga and Waterman) through it, to just keep playing, keep their intensity up.”
Rutgers (20-12) led for only 14 seconds when senior guard Tyler Scaife hit a 16-foot jumper to make it 12-11 with 5:03 left in the first quarter.
The Buckeyes (25-6) went into overdrive in scoring 15 straight points, beginning with a three-pointer by Mitchell with 3:25 left in the second quarter and ending with a layup by Mavunga with 7:52 of the third quarter, to lead 47-26.
What would the team do without Doss again?
“The same thing we’ve always done, stick with the game plan and play the game for 40 minutes,” Mitchell said. “It’s a lot more difficult when your best defender is out. With that being said, you kind of try to fill those gaps and those holes and start trying some other things. It wasn’t a totally different role for me, but I had to step out of my comfort zone.”
Minnesota defeated Iowa 90-89 despite a conference tournament-record 48 points from Hawkeyes center Megan Gustafson.
Ohio State defeated the Gophers 91-75 on Jan. 4 in Columbus. The margin was 64-29 going into the fourth quarter.