Ohio State’s position in the Big Ten women’s basketball standings is where many people might have expected before the season. The Buckeyes’ young talent can challenge the best teams, but struggles to establish an identity with mostly freshmen and sophomores on the floor.
With nine games remaining, the Buckeyes (11-9, 4-5) are staring down another team Sunday at Nebraska (15-6, 5-5) that is trying to prove its worth for the NCAA Tournament before the conference tournament begins in March.
Ohio State suffered a 20-point loss at home Thursday to 17th-ranked Maryland to drop consecutive games for the first time since November. But to make that game a one-off, the Buckeyes have to improve in many areas.
“So late in the season, we know we can't let this loss affect anything going on, and just take it with what it is,” guard Braxtin Miller said, “and know how to get better and what we need to get better at.”
Ohio State had success against Maryland with a smaller lineup in the second half, trimming its 22-point halftime deficit in half. But it wasn’t enough to avoid a loss.
"Game to game (our identity) seems to fluctuate with where we're at our best,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “That makes it really hard to create any consistency.”
Ohio State is hardly unique in lacking a clear identity. Nebraska has been left searching after losing four of its past six games.
Miller said after the Maryland game that she expects the Buckeyes to play better because they don’t have a choice. If they’re to move off the tournament bubble, she said they have to keep their expectations high, even after a disappointing loss.
“We’ve got to get better,” she said. “I think our expectation never lowers — it just keeps getting higher, and we keep having to prove ourselves more and more.”