Ohio State women's basketball team hopes to build on last season's success

Steve Blackledge
Columbus Dispatch USA TODAY NETWORK
Senior guard Braxtin Miller will again be a key perimeter player after averaging 8.2 points per game last season.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the word "uncertainty" will forever be associated with sports – and life in general – in 2020.

In that regard, Ohio State women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff might have a leg up on his competition this season, which already has been thrown for a loop when the Buckeyes' opener on Wednesday against Akron was postponed because of a coronavirus breakout among the Zips.

Whenever it does begin play, Ohio State has all five starters returning from a team that was 21-12 (11-7 in the Big Ten) and certainly was peaking in March when all sports came to a screeching halt because of coronavirus fears.

“It’s been quite the offseason, that’s for sure, but I think the kids have handled it well,” said McGuff, who is entering his eighth season. “The hardest part was we didn’t have everybody here in the summer, but we’re in the same boat as everybody else. We have to be really flexible and go with the flow. That’s just the way it’s going to be this year.”

McGuff added that watching how other sports, including Ohio State football, have functioned during the pandemic has been beneficial. He is part of a large group of coaches who text as a group to regularly discuss matters pertaining to COVID-19 protocol and concerns.

“It’s a bit scary because usually by now we would have scrimmaged and played exhibition games,” he said.

Six of the seven top contributors will return from a deep rotation that was extremely balanced, not only in scoring but other major categories, as well.

Six-foot-four junior forward Dorka Juhasz, who averaged team-high totals of 13.2 points and 9.4 rebounds last season, has her sights set on a WNBA career. The first-team All-Big Ten choice can dominate inside and hit the three-point shot.

The perimeter will be manned by 5-11 senior Braxtin Miller (8.2 points per game), 5-10 sophomore Jacy Sheldon of Dublin Coffman (9.6) and 5-8 sophomore Madison Greene of Pickerington Central (7.7). Six-four sophomore Rebeka Mikulasikova (7.7) and 6-3 junior Aaliyah Patty (7.8) are versatile post players.

Four players transferred, the most notable being three-time Ms. Basketball Kierstan Bell (Florida Gulf Coast) and Janai Crooms (Michigan State). Bell averaged 10.9 points off the bench.

Those departures will open the door for incoming freshmen Gabby Hutcherson (6-2) and Anyssa Jones (5-10) of Westerville South and Kateri Poole (5-8) as well as redshirt freshman Rikki Harris (5-10), who missed last season with a shoulder injury.

Hutcherson, Harris and Poole all were regarded as five-star prospects. Also joining the mix are two 6-1 transfers: sophomore Hevynne Bristow from Providence and graduate student Tanaya Beacham from Toledo.

“I really believe we have the right players in the program, from a talent and chemistry standpoint, to perhaps be the kind of team to eventually make a Final Four run,” McGuff said. “This is a very tight-knit group, both on and off the court, and we’ll be at our best when we spread the ball around like we did last season.

“That said, there are a couple areas we need to make improvement to take that next step. I’d like to see us be more consistent defensively and be a better rebounding team.”

Big Ten coaches and media polls tabbed Ohio State to finish fifth in the conference.

“That’s probably where we should be, based on the players returning from the other top teams,” McGuff said. “There are several teams that have established themselves on the national level, but I don’t think there’s one that can run away with it.”

sblackledge@dispatch.com

@BlackiePreps

OSU women's schedule

(Times and TV to be announced)

Sunday – Duquesne, 4 p.m. (Covelli Center)

Dec. 6 – Northern Kentucky

Dec. 15 – St. Mary’s (California)

Dec. 19 – Iowa

Dec. 23 – at Maryland

Dec. 31 – Michigan State

Jan. 4 – Penn State

Jan. 7 – at Illinois

Jan. 10 – Rutgers

Jan. 13 – at Iowa

Jan. 16 – at Nebraska

Jan. 21 – Michigan

Jan. 25 – Maryland

Feb. 1 – at Northwestern

Feb. 4 – at Indiana

Feb. 7 – Minnesota

Feb. 10 – at Wisconsin

Feb. 14 – Northwestern

Feb. 18 – Purdue

Feb. 21 – at Michigan

Feb. 24 – at Penn State

Feb. 27 – Indiana

March 5 or 6 – at Rutgers