Slow starts proving tricky for Ohio State women's basketball team

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Northwestern guard Veronica Burton (12) puts up a shot over Ohio State's Braxtin Miller (10) in the Wildcats' 69-57 victory on Monday, Burton led all players with 20 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.

The Ohio State women’s basketball team has faced some early deficits in recent games.

Before rallying for a 78-70 win at Indiana last week, for instance, the Buckeyes watched the Hoosiers open the game with an 11-0 run.

Visiting Northwestern on Monday night, Ohio State scored only eight points in the first quarter, marking its lowest-scoring quarter in 12 games this season, and fell behind by as many as 17 in the second quarter.

This time, the 11th-ranked Buckeyes were unable to catch up in a 69-57 loss to the Wildcats that snapped their three-game winning streak.

Afterward, OSU coach Kevin McGuff said he would consider the possibility of altering the starting lineup in coming games to jump-start the Buckeyes at tip-off.

In the past six games, the only change to the starting five involved swapping forward Tanaya Beacham in for Aaliyah Patty when Patty was sidelined by a dislocated left shoulder.

But McGuff also acknowledged a need for Ohio State (10-2, 6-2 Big Ten) to play with a greater focus, even for a highly ranked team that has lost just twice this season.

He noted mistakes from the earliest possessions — the Buckeyes committed five turnovers in the opening quarter.

“Which leads me to believe we just didn’t have the right focus,” McGuff said, “and so that’s something we got to make sure we continue to talk about and our players really commit to.”

Dorka Juhasz, a junior forward who led the Buckeyes with 11 points and 14 rebounds for her sixth double-double this season, raised a similar concern. In the early going, she said, the Buckeyes needed to be more focused.

“Everybody has to take that personally,” Juhasz said. “Obviously it’s a collective thing, but everybody has to look inside of themselves and just like, ‘Hey, I have to make sure, whenever we're warming up, we have great energy, we are focused, we’re not focusing on anything else.’ 

“I believe that in some games this season, we had great starts — more often on our home court,” she added. “But when we play Indiana, Northwestern, it’s just gonna be hard. And we have to be even more focused to start a game.”

Both Indiana and Northwestern (10-3, 8-3) are nationally ranked teams and presented formidable obstacles in comeback attempts.

The Wildcats presented a particular challenge on Monday night due to the presence of guard Veronica Burton, who was one assist shy of a triple-double, finishing with 20 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.

After four consecutive games against ranked teams, the Buckeyes host Iowa on Thursday in a matchup that had previously been scheduled in mid-December before it was postponed due to a rise in coronavirus cases within Ohio State’s program.

The Hawkeyes (10-4, 6-4) are in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten, sitting in seventh place in the standings as of Tuesday.