For the first time this season, Ohio State women's basketball coach Kevin McGuff got to see how his team plays with "the lights on and people in the stands."
And while the final score might not indicate it, Sunday’s exhibition game was a learning moment for McGuff and the Buckeyes, who ran over Division II Urbana 131-50.Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
"We’ve worked hard in the preseason, so I was happy to see our kids put that on the court today," McGuff said. "We have a long way to go, but I think you could see some of the talent we have."
Freshman guards Jacy Sheldon and Kierstan Bell led the Buckeyes with 25 points each, both showing off their tantalizing potential as program-changing talents. McGuff started three freshmen — (Sheldon, Bell and forward Aixa Wone Aranaz, who scored 11 — while fellow freshman guards Kaelynn Satterfield (22 points) and Madison Greene (seven) came off the bench.
While that quintet combined to score 90 points, they still had some up-and-down moments that McGuff described as "youthful mistakes."
"It was our first time playing a real game, which was really cool," Sheldon said. "I think we learned a lot; we have a lot to build on."
Sheldon flashed her playmaking ability on both the offensive and defensive ends, finishing with eight rebounds, five steals and two assists.
"She can get in the right place at the right time,” McGuff said. "She’s got quick hands and tips a lot of balls. Once she gets a steal, she’s quick up the court."
Despite being an exhibition, the Buckeyes only played eight players, all of whom totaled more than 20 minutes on the court. While those numbers could change once freshmen Rikki Harris and Rebeka Mikulasikova return from injury and the NCAA rules on the eligibility of transfer Braxtin Miller, McGuff said the Buckeyes' rotation could vary based on situation.
"I feel like with so many newcomers, (our rotations) will probably be in flux," McGuff said. "I don’t know if we’ll settle into that anytime soon. I think some of the kids might be better in certain matchups compared to others. We might go game to game."
After Ohio State’s closed scrimmage against Eastern Michigan last week, McGuff felt there were some fixes the Buckeyes needed to make, especially on defense. And while both players and coaches alike agreed that they still have room to improve on the defensive end, they believe the progress they saw Sunday is a step in the right direction.
"The first scrimmage was a little iffy because it was our first time on the court," Bell said. "But once we got into practice, we really focused on defense."
While the play of the freshmen might attract the most attention, the returning players quietly put together some solid performances, as forwards Dorka Juhasz (17 points) and Aaliyah Patty (10 points, 10 rebounds) and guard Janai Crooms (14 points, eight assists) all played well.
"With all the new people we have, as long as we keep improving week to week, I think we're going to end up in a good place," McGuff said.
The Buckeyes open their season Sunday against Valparaiso in the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame Classic in Springfield.