Minnesota poses tough road test for Ohio State women’s basketball team

Steve Blackledge
Ohio State Buckeyes forward Dorka Juhasz (14) is guarded by UConn Huskies forward Megan Walker (3) during the first half of Sunday's NCAA basketball game at Value City Arena in Columbus on November 24, 2019. [Barbara J. Perenic/Dispatch]

Coach Kevin McGuff was rather blunt in assessing his young Ohio State women’s basketball team after a 66-50 loss to Purdue in its Big Ten opener Saturday.

“We’ve got to get tougher mentally and get it together,” McGuff said. “The Big Ten is very unforgiving. No one is going to feel sorry for us.”

His point was well founded. Collectively, Big Ten teams have a 130-40 record (.765). Ten teams have at least nine wins, and eight are ranked or received votes in the latest Associated Press poll.

Next up for the Buckeyes (7-5, 0-1) is a game at Minnesota (11-1, 1-0) at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Although the Buckeyes have won five straight against the Golden Gophers and lead the series 59-13, the statistics suggest it will be a tough challenge.

Although Ohio State has played the tougher schedule — with games against national powerhouses Louisville, Connecticut and Stanford — Minnesota enters with an 11-game win streak. The Gophers have outscored their opposition by an average score of 79.2 to 61.5, own a plus-6.3 turnover margin per game and shoot 40.6% (103 of 254) from three-point range.

Minnesota has four players scoring in double figures: two-time all-Big Ten guard-forward Destiny Pitts (16.3 points per game), forward Taiye Bello (13.0), and guards Gadiva Hubbard (12.4) and Sara Scalia (11.3).

With seven freshmen and three sophomores, Ohio State’s rotation has been a work in progress. Eight players are logging more than 18 minutes per game and eight are scoring between 5.8 and 13.3 points. Sophomore forward Dorka Juhasz leads the team in scoring (13.3), rebounding (8.2) and field-goal percentage (54.4).

“We’re still in a flux finding the right rotation and best chemistry, and we probably will be for some time,” McGuff said.