Ohio State women still motivated despite late-season slide

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State guard Braxtin Miller (10), here celebrating after hitting a 3-pointer and getting a foul against Indiana on Saturday, says "staying motivated isn't too much of a problem for us."

As Ohio State’s women’s basketball team lost its third consecutive game over the weekend, a familiar pattern unfolded.

Ahead of Indiana by five points in the fourth quarter on Saturday afternoon, its lead unraveled.

Three days earlier, the 15th-ranked Buckeyes were up by the same margin at Penn State until stumbling down the stretch.

There is seemingly little left for Ohio State to play for in its season after falling out of the race for the Big Ten regular-season championship. Self-reported NCAA violations already kept the team from reaching the conference or NCAA tournaments later this month. Only one more game is left on the schedule at Rutgers on Saturday.

But even though the Buckeyes (13-6, 9-6 in Big Ten) have wilted late in their recent games, their resolve has been unchanged, senior guard Braxtin Miller said following Saturday’s 87-75 loss to the 11th-ranked Hoosiers.

Missed opportunities over the closing stretch, not a lack of motivation, led them to languish.

“Maybe to the outside, it seems like we're not motivated, but I think that watching us play, it shows a lot of times that we're motivated,” Miller said. “I wouldn’t base these losses to say we're not motivated. We fight and sometimes it doesn't go our way.”

“Staying motivated isn't too much of a problem for us. We all really like reach other and want to win together because nobody on the team just cares to lose.”

Miller never left the floor against Indiana, playing all 40 minutes and leading the Buckeyes with a team-high 23 points.

That included a 3-pointer late in the third quarter that put them ahead before losing their grip on the lead in the fourth quarter.

Coach Kevin McGuff complimented his team’s focus and didn’t either think they were hurt by limited motivation as the season has waned.

Ohio State guard Kateri Poole (5) goes up for a shot against Indiana on Saturday.

“They like to play the game, and they like to compete, and they like to play for each other,” McGuff said.

As damaging as anything to the Buckeyes’ prospects against Indiana was the foul differential. They were whistled for 26 fouls, while Indiana was called for 16.

It led Ohio State to be without its leading scorer Jacy Sheldon for the fourth quarter after she picked up her fifth foul early during the final period.

Due to foul trouble, Sheldon played only six minutes in the second half and was scoreless. All 11 points she scored came over the first two quarters as the Buckeyes kept close.

McGuff gave a deadpanned review of the officiating.

“I guess give Indiana credit,” he said. “They never, ever fouled, and we fouled too much. Hopefully we can get that corrected this week.”

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman