SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — For most of the fourth quarter of the Ohio State women's basketball team's season opener on Sunday against Valparaiso, freshman guard Kierstan Bell sat on the bench celebrating.

When Aaliyah Patty made a three-pointer in front of the Buckeyes' bench, Bell stood up and made a three with her fingers before high-fiving Patty as she ran by. When Rebeka Mikulasikova came back to the bench after going coast-to-coast on a layup attempt, Bell and sophomore Janai Crooms fanned her off with towels. And when the final buzzer sounded to secure Bell’s first collegiate victory, she let out a yell, high-fived her teammates and flexed in the direction of Ohio State’s cheering section.

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Ohio State fans are hoping that the celebration was the first of many this season for the Buckeyes, who defeated Valparaiso 89-38 in the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame Classic.

“We’re just sticking to the plan and playing Ohio State basketball,” said Bell, who finished with 10 points. “We’re not worried about the score; we’re worried about playing defense and keeping opponents accountable.”

Dorka Juhasz led Ohio State with 16 points and seven rebounds. Juhasz’s scoring versatility was on display for most of the afternoon, as she finished 2 of 4 on three-pointers and 6 of 8 from the free-throw line.

“It was pretty good for my confidence,” she said of her shooting. “I struggled shooting in the exhibition (against Urbana), but today I had more confidence.”

One of the reasons that Bell was able to spend almost all of the fourth quarter on the bench was a 23-0 Buckeyes run in the third quarter that put the game away.

“(In the first half), I thought we were trying to make a play in the first five seconds of the shot clock on either end,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “In the second half, we kind of settled down and stuck to the plan. In the first half, we were really anxious in trying to get a steal and ended up getting beat off the dribble. Once we slowed down we got some stops, and everything else kind of came into place.”

Ohio State showed off different looks defensively, switching between everything from a zone to a full-court press.

“We have some depth to go along with some speed and quickness, so I thought running (the press) was to our advantage,” McGuff said. “I think that kind of contributed to getting (Valparaiso) out of their rhythm. You’ll see more of that out of us.”

The Buckeyes' youth movement was in full effect, as six freshmen got in the game. In addition to Bell, Jacy Sheldon (12 points), Aixa Wone Aranaz (two), Madison Greene (seven), Kaelynn Satterfield (nine) and Mikulasikova (eight) all made their collegiate debuts.

Braxtin Miller made her debut for the Buckeyes after being ruled eligible late last week following her transfer from Oklahoma State. She finished with five points and four rebounds in 20 minutes.

 

hpalattella@dispatch.com

@hellapalattella