Having last played a game 18 days ago, the Ohio State women's basketball team might take the court against North Carolina on Thursday night in Value City Arena with a bit of rust. But the Buckeyes hope their unexpected time off will help them in the long run.

"We kind of took it back to the basics, broke a lot of things down," fifth-year senior forward Makayla Waterman told reporters this week. "We really reverted back to growing as a team without having to worry about scouting other teams."

Games against Sacramento State and Stanford in northern California were canceled because of poor air quality caused by wildfires. The cancellations followed a rough start for Ohio State (1-2), which suffered one-sided losses to South Florida and Connecticut sandwiched around a win over Detroit Mercy.

Graduate transfer guard Carly Santoro leads Ohio State with 12 points per game. Freshman forward Dorka Juhász is averaging 10 points and 7.7 rebounds.

The break in the schedule allowed for the kind of work usually associated with preseason camp, work that a struggling team with no returning starters probably could use. But the disruption wasn't exactly welcome, coach Kevin McGuff said.

"It's such a long break, and it's hard," McGuff said. "We've focused on trying to get better, but it's not easy to show up every day and do that with such a long break. Kids like to play games; coaches like to coach in games. … Hopefully this has been a productive time for us."

The game Thursday is part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. North Carolina (5-2) has four players averaging in double figures, led by Janelle Bailey at 16.6 points per game. Bailey also leads the Tar Heels with 8.7 rebounds per game.

 

sdavis@dispatch.com