In the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament on Thursday in Indianapolis, Ohio State faces a Wisconsin team it swept in two regular-season games. The fifth-seeded Buckeyes also have an extra day of rest over the 13th-seeded Badgers, who defeated No. 12 seed Penn State on Wednesday.
However, the Buckeyes are short on Big Ten tournament experience.
Coach Kevin McGuff lost 93 percent of the scoring from last year’s tournament championship team. The only player with significant tournament experience is fifth-year senior Makayla Waterman.
“We have a lot of newcomers,” McGuff said. “It won’t be new to (Waterman), but the other ones we have to make sure are locked in.”
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The Buckeyes (14-13, 10-8) have won 28 of their past 30 games against the Badgers (14-17, 4-14). In a 70-68 win on Feb. 17 at Value City Arena, Ohio State trailed by 14, rallied back to take a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter and then held on for the win. Dorka Juhasz led the Buckeyes with 21 points and 15 rebounds. In Madison on Feb. 28, Ohio State won 61-50 behind Carmen Grande’s 17 points and five assists.
Ohio State enters postseason play with four wins in its past five games. The loss, however, was a tough one at home on Sunday. The Buckeyes led Rutgers by 16 points in the first quarter, but 30 turnovers spelled doom in a 66-56 defeat. The Scarlet Knights (21-8, 13-5) are the No. 3 seed in the tournament.
“It was a bad loss given the circumstances and the opportunity we had in front of us, but it’s not like we lost to a bad team — (Rutgers is) a good team and had a great season,” McGuff said. “It’s just really tough because it was so close to being a great win for us.”
There are five teams below the Buckeyes in the Big Ten standings that have a better overall winning percentage this season. Since losing at top-seed Maryland on Jan. 5, the Buckeyes are 10-5. They won at Rutgers, swept Michigan State and were the only team to beat the Spartans in East Lansing. The loss at Maryland was a turning point, McGuff said.
“(Since then) we’ve been competitive in every game, except maybe at Northwestern (a 76-59 loss), and played pretty well, so we should have the confidence that we can compete with anybody,” McGuff said.