Crooms on a roll as Buckeyes try to reach .500

Jeff Thitoff The Columbus Dispatch
In Ohio State's 59-39 win at Rutgers on Thursday, Crooms posted a line of 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and six steals. [Brooke LaValley]

The Ohio State women’s basketball team on Sunday will attempt to do something it hasn’t accomplished since Dec. 20.

The Buckeyes (11-12, 7-7) haven’t been at .500 since they fell to 4-4 after a loss to Butler, but they have a chance to get back to a level record if they can beat Wisconsin (12-13, 3-10) in Value City Arena.

Meanwhile, OSU guard Janai Crooms is coming off a performance that has happened only one other time by a true freshman in women’s basketball in 20 years.

In OSU’s 59-39 win at Rutgers on Thursday, Crooms posted a line of 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and six steals. According to the university’s athletic communications department, she is the second true freshman since 1999 to collect at least 10 points and five rebounds, assists and steals in a game.

The night before, freshman Ciaja Harbison of Saint Louis totaled 18 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and six steals in a 67-63 win over Duquesne.

In Ohio State’s previous game, a 78-52 loss to Iowa, Crooms had a season-high seven assists.

“She is gaining more experience and with that more confidence, allowing her talents to shine,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said of Crooms, a native of Cranston, Rhode Island. “She practices and plays harder than anybody out there.”

Crooms entered the starting lineup on Dec. 31 against Nebraska and since the start of the new year she is averaging 11 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game. She is shooting 48 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range.

“When I started starting, I felt more confident,” Crooms said. “My game was coming to me, my teammates and coaches having confidence in me got me going.”

The win over Rutgers is even more impressive considering Ohio State was missing fifth-year senior Makayla Waterman, who stayed in Columbus rehabbing a knee injury. McGuff said Waterman’s availability against the Badgers will be a game-time decision.

Tied for 12th place in the Big Ten, Wisconsin doesn’t enter with an imposing record, but the Badgers are coming off a strong performance, a 79-62 win at home against No. 24 Michigan State on Thursday.

“They played their best game of the year,” McGuff said.

How the Buckeyes fare in their last four conference games could swing their seeding in the Big Ten tournament. They enter Sunday’s game in a three-way tie for seventh place — but just a game behind a tie for fourth and a game ahead of a tie for 10th.

After Sunday, the Buckeyes close with road games at Michigan State (17-7, 7-6) and Wisconsin and then home against Rutgers (17-7, 9-4).


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