Ohio State's Kevin McGuff hoping COVID-19 pause is short-lived for women's basketball team
Kevin McGuff has had to deliver some version of the same unfortunate speech to his players on three occasions in recent weeks.
The first two times, the Ohio State women’s basketball coach had to inform his team that their opponents had turned up at least one positive COVID-19 test and forced the cancellation of their games against the Buckeyes. That news was tough enough to cope with, in particular when the season opener against Akron was canceled the day before it was to be played after the longest offseason in program history.
Tuesday was much harder. That day, McGuff learned that the team’s scheduled Big Ten opener against Iowa on Saturday would be postponed due to “an increase in positive COVID-19 tests within the (Ohio State) program,” according to the official press release.
Now, despite their best efforts, the virus has affected the No. 17 Buckeyes, and it’s unclear just how long the program will remain paused.
“We’re continuing to test,” McGuff told The Dispatch this week. “We’re just going to have to get some more data here in the coming days to figure out where this is gonna go here.”
Ohio State has not released specifics for any of its COVID-19 testing as it relates to any of its athletic programs, and McGuff did not clarify how many members of the program had tested positive. The hope is that the daily testing protocols instituted by the Big Ten will help prevent any further spread and allow the Buckeyes to get back on the court in short order.
No decision has been made yet regarding Ohio State’s next game, a Dec. 23 road game against Maryland.
“It’s given us real-time data daily,” McGuff said of the daily testing. “I’m hopeful that this is more short-term than long-term, but we’re going to have to continue to monitor the situation.”
Aside from the obvious concerns for the safety and well-being of his players, McGuff said the postponement is tough to swallow because of the start the Buckeyes have enjoyed. In four wins, all played at home, Ohio State is second in the Big Ten in scoring at 96.3 points per game, third in defense at 55.5 points per game and tops in scoring margin at plus-40.8 points.
Five players are averaging in double figures, led by preseason first-team all-Big Ten selection Dorka Juhasz who is averaging a double-double with 17.8 points and 10.5 rebounds in only 25 minutes per game.
“Granted, we were about to start playing in the Big Ten where the competition’s going to be extraordinarily tough on a nightly basis, but the thing I’m probably worried about is we’ve done such a great job,” McGuff said. “We had a really good fall. We had a good start to the season. Our kids are playing well. The chemistry is good. I really like where we were starting the Big Ten.”
McGuff said players will be able to continue working out but that there’s no substitute for practice action, and that conditioning is a concern depending on how long the program is paused.
Because the Buckeyes opened the season without any practice players in an effort to limit the number of people in contact with the regulars, McGuff said a byproduct has been a team in better shape than usual for this time of year because more players took more practice reps.
Throughout, he said, they’ve tried to follow the guidelines provided by their medical staff and keep themselves as safe as possible. Now they just have to wait and see when they can get back in action.
“They’ve done a great job,” he said. “They’ve been very mature and they’ve taken all the right precautions, but it does hit a little closer to home. Each of them is thinking, ‘It’s around us.’ We’re going to continue to be very careful when we’re outside of the building and hope we can restart here sooner rather than later.”