In the eyes of coach Kevin McGuff and his Ohio State women’s basketball team, every game ― especially at this stage of the season ― is important.
With just two games remaining in the regular season, seedings for the Big Ten tournament March 4-8 and the NCAA Tournament are up for grabs, and the Buckeyes are positioning themselves for success in both.
The home finale Tuesday night against 14th-ranked Northwestern (24-3, 14-2 Big Ten) could be especially important for Ohio State (17-10, 10-6).
“Sure, they’re all big,” McGuff said, “but this is a big opportunity for us against one of the top teams in the country.”
Tied with Maryland atop the Big Ten, Northwestern is seeking its first Big Ten championship since 1990. The Wildcats have never advanced past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Northwestern is led by junior guard Lindsey Pulliam, who is scoring 19.3 points per game.
With just two games remaining, Ohio State could finish anywhere from fourth to eighth in the conference. ESPN bracketology sees the Buckeyes being a No. 8 seed in the NCAA field.
This will be the fourth game in 10 days for Ohio State, whose six-game winning streak was snapped Saturday by Rutgers, 59-57.
“It’s a quick turnaround, for sure, but that’s college basketball this time of year,” McGuff said. “You just turn the page and move on to the next game.”
Sophomore forward Dorka Juhasz said the Buckeyes hope to continue to build on a late-season surge, and a matchup against Northwestern will serve as a litmus test.
“With so many young players, we’re learning that you have to switch mentally fast, and you can’t spend time thinking about why you didn’t win the last game,” said Juhasz, who leads the Buckeyes in scoring (13.1 points per game) and rebounding (8.8).
“I think the past 10 games is probably the best stretch we’ve played all year. We had some tough losses early, but we learned so much from them. With so many new players, it wasn’t hard to build chemistry outside the court, but it’s been harder to find on the court. It’s been a process putting the players’ various talents together and finding the right offensive style.”
To celebrate the home finale, Ohio State will observe the contributions of its lone senior, Olentangy Liberty graduate Savitha Jayaraman, who joined the program as a walk-on in 2017-18 and has scored 10 points in 56 minutes of action. Jayaraman, who referred to herself as a “team Mom,” has missed the entire season because of a bulging disc in her spine.
McGuff said that freshman sixth player Kierstan Bell, who went home to Canton for personal reasons and missed the loss at Rutgers, has returned to the team and “could be available” Tuesday.