Ohio State women’s basketball seeks more consistency going into Purdue game
Half-jokingly, coach Kevin McGuff said his New Year's wish list for the Ohio State women's basketball team was “way too long."
In all seriousness, however, the Buckeyes have shown both flashes of brilliance and bumpy patches during their 7-4 start. But that was to be expected from a youthful squad with eight new players.
"It's a long list, but in general it's just our overall consistency I want see get better," McGuff said on the eve of the Big Ten opener at noon Saturday against Purdue (9-3). It will mark the Buckeyes' only game this season at St. John Arena.
"When we've been at our best, we've shown what we're capable of," McGuff said. "But I want to see us do it over longer stretches of time. We knew we would be up and down during our nonconference schedule with all the young players we have. Now is the time we need to start showing more consistency."
During the first six weeks of the season, Ohio State proved it could play toe-to-toe with some of the top teams in the country, but also struggled against some less heralded opponents. The Buckeyes beat No. 2 Louisville (67-60) and lost to No. 4 Connecticut (73-62) and to No. 1 Stanford (71-52).
Depth and overall balance have been valuable assets for Ohio State.
Eight players are scoring between 5.3 and 13.4 points per game. Five average between 3.5 and 8.2 rebounds. All 12 players have logged more than 100 minutes.
With seven freshmen and three sophomores on the roster, McGuff has gotten an opportunity to evaluate his talent. That process, however, will be ongoing.
"We've been able to play a lot of people and get them quality minutes on the floor," McGuff said. "We know we have depth and a lot of players who can contribute in a variety of ways."
McGuff is seeking his 400th coaching victory. A total of 144 have come in his seven seasons at Ohio State. He also coached at Xavier and Washington.
He has built a solid and diverse rotation. Six-foot-four sophomore forward Dorka Juhasz leads the team in scoring (13.4) and rebounding (8.2). Sophomore guard Janai Crooms has done a little of everything, averaging 8.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and a team-best 4.3 assists. The team leader in minutes played, junior guard Braxtin Miller adds 7.6 points and 3.9 assists.
Freshman guards Kierstan Bell and Jacy Sheldon of Dublin Coffman, who finished one-two in the Ohio Ms. Basketball voting in March, have given Ohio State a big boost, averaging 9.9 and 9.2 points, respectively. Sheldon is coming off a career-high 23-point game against Sacramento State.
"Jacy is a great athlete who loves to play the game," McGuff said. "She's gaining confidence and getting more comfortable each time out."
In stark contrast to Ohio State, Purdue returns its entire starting five from 2018-19, when it went 19-15 overall and 8-10 in Big Ten play. Junior guard Karissa McLaughlin leads a balanced scoring attack at 12 points per game.
Purdue at Ohio State
When: Noon Saturday
Where: St. John Arena
Radio: WBNS-AM (1460)