Janai Crooms’ versatile skill set was on display from the opening tip Sunday of the Ohio State women's basketball exhibition game against Urbana.

Twelve seconds in, the sophomore guard found Kierstan Bell for a three-pointer to open the scoring. On the next possession, she blew past Urbana defenders for an easy layup. Three minutes later, she picked off a bad pass and found an open Jacy Sheldon for an easy transition basket.

 

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By the time the first quarter was over, Ohio State led 42-19, thanks in large part to Crooms’ four points, two rebounds and three assists. The numbers are even more impressive considering she sat the final four minutes of the quarter after committing her second turnover. She finished with 14 points, eight assists and four rebounds in a 131-50 win, a stat line that’s indicative of her all-around play.

She also finished with a five turnovers, a number that Crooms and coach Kevin McGuff are trying to cut down.

“I thought I played fine; I just need to take care of the ball,” Crooms said. “Maybe (without those turnovers) they would’ve scored less and we would’ve scored more. I just need to be smart with what I do.”

McGuff said multiple times before the season that he wanted the Buckeyes to get back to their fast-paced offense, and on Sunday they did, finishing with 92 possessions. And while that fast-paced offense can lead to some mistakes, McGuff said that a majority of Crooms’ turnovers came when she tried to play outside of the Buckeyes’ system.

“We’re at our best when she’s establishing an aggressive pace but keeping it kind of simple,” McGuff said. “She has really great instincts, so I think sometimes she’s trying to do a little too much at times, which may lead to some turnovers.”

One way Crooms is looking to cut down on turnovers is by letting the offense come to her instead of trying to force things.

“Coach always says that keeping a fast pace doesn’t always mean you need to rush everything,” she said. “I always try to keep that in the back of my head to just take my time and not rush. Just play my game.”

Perhaps the most impressive part of Crooms' game was her presence on defense, where she finished with three steals and two blocks. Although it came against a Division II opponent, Crooms believes the Buckeyes' strong defensive showing (17 steals, nine blocks) came because of good habits developed throughout the preseason.

“Coach has always been on us about keeping our hands up and communicating, so I think that played a big factor in why we forced that many turnovers,” she said. “We just always need to be ready and talking on defense.”

hpalattella@dispatch.com

@hellapalattella