Dorka Juhasz participated in her first collegiate basketball game on Tuesday night, but she demonstrated a clear understanding of what life might be like in November and December for an Ohio State women’s basketball team debuting seven new players and playing a difficult nonconference schedule.
With a Division I-leading 93.3 percent of its scoring gone from the 2017-18 roster, Ohio State tipped off its 2018-19 slate knowing improved defense and work ethic would be critical if it hoped to compensate for a significant talent drain.
“I’m pretty positive about this team,” the 6-foot-4 freshman from Pecs, Hungary said. “Sometimes we have to get these first punches in the face. … We know what we have to learn.”
The Buckeyes held No. 22 South Florida to 36.8 percent shooting in its season opener Tuesday night in front of 3,472 at Value City Arena but were dropped 71-47 by a 1-2 punch of a minus-16 rebounding margin and the lack of a consistent scoring threat.
Just two Ohio State (0-1) players — graduate transfer Carly Santoro (14 points) and Juhasz (10 points, 10 rebounds) — finished in double figures as the Buckeyes produced their lowest scoring output since Jan. 16, 2014.
“We play a really hard schedule, they’re a great team, and they exposed some things I thought we would need to get better with,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “Specifically, our rebounding has to improve, we’ve got to get much more efficient at the free throw line and then when we got out of what we were trying to do, it usually resulted in a bad shot or a turnover, so our execution has got to get better.”
Senior Kitija Laksa and freshman Beatriz Jordao led the Bulls (1-0) with 17 points each.
In the first 145 seconds of the season, the Buckeyes trailed 7-2 and committed four fouls — two by graduate transfer Adreana Miller — and had two turnovers.
Thus began a long, lopsided opening night during which USF’s lead didn’t dip below 10 over the final 31 minutes.
Ohio State trailed 37-19 at the half, shooting just 26 percent from the floor and yielding a 30-16 rebounding advantage to the Bulls. The Buckeyes shot 29.6 percent for the game.
Santoro, who transferred from Bowling Green, discovered her touch around the rim in the third quarter, making three layups and a pair of free throws to lead the Buckeyes to their most prolific quarter, but one in which they were still outscored 22-17.
“We emphasized at halftime that when we were driving, we were doing good things, so that’s what happened,” Santoro said.
Junior guard Jensen Caretti sat out the game due to a suspension for a violation of team rules. She is expected to return Friday against Detroit.