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Ohio State women look to step up defense as conference games loom

From staff reports
Ohio State guard Jacy Sheldon (4) steps through defenders on the way to the basket in the Buckeyes' 96-63 victory over Northern Kentucky on Sunday. Sheldon averages 18.7 points per game to lead OSU.

Big Ten play begins for the Ohio State women’s basketball team on Dec. 19 against Iowa, meaning the Buckeyes have only two more nonconference games to prepare for what promises to be a rugged 20-game league season. 

In those two remaining games, on Thursday against Miami University and Tuesday against St. Mary’s in Value City Arena, coach Kevin McGuff will be looking for his team to continue its fine play on one end of the court and improve it on the other. 

Offensively, the Buckeyes (3-0) have been humming in lopsided victories over Duquesne, Kent State and Northern Kentucky, in which they are averaging 93.7 points per game and winning by a margin of more than 41 points per game. 

“We’re trying to play with great pace and energy,” McGuff said after OSU’s 96-63 win over Northern Kentucky on Sunday. “We want to put pressure on the defense.” 

It is at the other end of the floor, however, where McGuff sees the need for Ohio State to improve before the Big Ten season begins. 

“Defensive we could have done a lot better,” forward Aaliyah Patty said of a spotty first quarter on Sunday against NKU. 

“We could have rebounded better, we could have guarded the ball better. If we want to win games, our defense has to be a lot better.” 

Part of the defensive problem against Northern Kentucky could have been that the Buckeyes were playing without senior guard Braxtin Miller. 

Ohio State did not announce why Miller missed the game and offered no update on her situation regarding Thursday’s game against Miami or beyond. 

Redshirt freshman Rikki Harris started in Miller’s place and contributed 11 points, all in the second half. She was one of five players in double figures for the Buckeyes, who are shooting 55.5% from the floor through three games. 

Sophomore guard Jacy Sheldon leads Ohio State in minutes and scoring (18.7 points per game) while shooting 70% from the field. But the Buckeyes know they will need Miller’s presence to have long-term success. 

“She’s definitely a big part of our team,” Patty said. “She’s a leader, she’s a great defensive player, she rebounds, she scores. We definitely need her and can’t wait to have her back.” 

sports@dispatch.com