For the first 20 minutes Monday at No. 17 Maryland, Ohio State showed it can play with top-25 teams in women’s basketball. The next 20 minutes revealed the inconsistency that has marked the Buckeyes’ season.
Eliminating that inconsistency remains the biggest obstacle for the Buckeyes.
“I just think it’s being able to play more consistently,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “Even within a specific game, we really show how good we can be, but then we don’t sustain it for long enough.”
Ohio State (8-6, 1-2 Big Ten) has another shot against a ranked team in No. 24 Michigan (11-3, 2-1) on Thursday night at Value City Arena.
The past seven games in the series have been decided by single digits, with two going to overtime and the Buckeyes winning four.
Entering the second half with a seven-point lead over the Terrapins, the Buckeyes committed 15 turnovers and shot just 28% from the field on their way to 20 points in the final 20 minutes to lose by 10. Ohio State made 10 field goals in the first quarter and just eight in the third and fourth quarters combined.
Cutting down on the turnovers has been a focus in practice, especially after the Buckeyes seemed prepared for the Terrapins from the start.
“I thought we handled their pressure in the first half really well, and in the second half we didn’t,” McGuff said. “Not only was it the turnovers, they were taking the turnovers and turning them into points.”
Rebounding has also been a struggle. The Buckeyes have been outrebounded in all three conference games and will face one of the best inside players in the league in Michigan forward Naz Hillmon, who averages 15.1 points and 8.2 rebounds.
A bright spot has been the development of freshman guard Jacy Sheldon. Since moving into the starting lineup four games ago, the Dublin native has made 19 of 34 field goals and is averaging 12 points.
The Buckeyes have depth, but it’s young depth. Sheldon has been playing like a veteran by just making the smart play, learning from her mistakes and playing with confidence.
“I still don’t think I’m shooting it to my ability,” Sheldon said. “At Maryland, I feel like I got my groove a little bit, so I think that boosted my confidence a little bit.”
Sheldon acknowledged the importance of beating the rival Wolverines, but the bigger picture isn’t lost on any of the Buckeyes. A win would give them postseason resume a boost with their second top-25 win. They defeated No. 7 Louisville in December.
“It’s a big game. It’s a huge game. It would be a great win for us, but they’re a really great team so we’re going to have to come ready to play.”