Tough turnaround: No. 2 UConn next up

Andrew Erickson
aerickson@dispatch.com

Ohio State gained confidence with its first victory on Friday over Detroit Mercy.

But it didn’t have much time to soak in a 55-41 victory. Instead, No. 2 Connecticut waits around the corner. The Huskies, who play host to Ohio State on Sunday, have as many national titles (three) as losses in the last five seasons, and they start the 2018-19 season angry.

Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra

UConn entered each of the last two Final Fours undefeated only to lose on buzzer-beaters, the most recent in overtime to Arike Ogunbowale and Notre Dame at Nationwide Arena.

Sunday starts the Huskies' road to redemption, and Ohio State sits in an uncomfortable position as UConn’s first obstacle and a team putting together its second game plan in three days.

“We focus on us, but at the same time we have to game plan for them,” graduate transfer guard Carmen Grande said of Detroit and UConn. “It’s a matter of doing us and doing better on what we can do, but still focusing on both.”

And there is plenty for the Buckeyes to improve. In addition to wanting to better his team’s rebounding and shot selection after a 71-47 loss to No. 22 South Florida in the opener on Tuesday, coach Kevin McGuff came away from the game simply wanting better fundamentals from his team.

“We had times where we were wide open and made a bad pass,” McGuff said. “Bad passing teams are bad shooting teams. You have to be able to hit them in the hands to get a chance to get a good shot off.”

The Buckeyes (1-1) know it will take more than strong fundamentals to stay competitive with UConn. In three previous meetings with the Huskies under McGuff, Ohio State has lost by double digits each time, including a 44-point loss in the second game of the 2015-16 season.

Ohio State’s 2016-17 team won 28 games, reached the Sweet 16 and had one of the most competitive games against UConn that season. It still lost 82-63.

The newness of its roster and the lack of a clear go-to scorer might make November a difficult month for the Buckeyes. Sunday’s game is no exception.

“(We know) that it’s not going to be easy, but still, don’t count us out for those games because we’re not counting ourselves out,” Grande said. “It’s a process and if we don’t stay positive then it’s going to be hell, and we don’t want our season to be hell.”

aerickson@dispatch.com

@AEricksonCD

Game preview

Ohio State at No. 2 Connecticut

NOON SUNDAY

Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn.

Notable: Ohio State averaged 51 points over its first two games. … UConn is 188-3 over the last five seasons. … Connecticut has won its last four games against Ohio State. … Ohio State graduate transfer guard Carmen Grande logged her 700th career assist Friday. She is the nation’s active leader in assists.

Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Basketball podcast: