We wrap up the Buckeyes regular season with a get together to discuss our feelings about multiple topics. We’re pleased to have Marty Bannister from The Fan in Columbus and the voice of the Buckeyes join us and give his thoughts on the regular season. We also have women’s basketball season ticket holder and superfan Jeff Howell joining us with his insight to our Q&A. I have included links in the participant’s names for their twitters, please follow if you aren’t already! Let’s get started.
Marty - Two things pop to mind right away, the signing of the highly rated freshman recruiting class, led Cincinnati Princeton’s Kelsey Mitchell and Kettering Fairmont’s Makayla Waterman, and then that same week, opening with a win at then 12th ranked, and now 7th ranked, West Virginia. That win came without Raven Ferguson, suspended for the first 3 games, and the Buckeyes played the final 1:20 with only 5 eligible players. That same Mountaineer team won at Baylor this past weekend,snapping the defending champs 35 game home court win streak.
Jeff - To me the highlight of McGuff’s first season was the ability of he and his staff to “coach up” this team. There have obviously been more talented Lady Buckeye teams in the past, but in my 12 years as a season ticket holder I have never seen a Lady Buckeye team with more heart and effort than this year’s team. Let’s face it – other than Ameryst Alston, this team was largely made up of role players, who provided a specific area of expertise: a rebounder – Moore/Adams, a defensive stopper – Craft, an energy person – Scullion, a person who can take someone off the dribble – Raven, a person who can hit an open shot – Ellerbe. None of these had the all around, everything game of Alston. McGuff and his staff were able to get the most out of nothing from this group and for the most part were competitive in every single game. His whole approach to practices, warm-ups prior to the game start, his engaging energy on the bench, etc. were refreshing and will bode well going forward.
Ken - The season opening win against West Virginia. In their first game, they visited a very good team and won an away game. Good times were ahead for us.
Mali - We beat Michigan at Michigan. That’s never ever a bad thing.
Charles - This is a tossup between the season opening win on the road against a good West Virginia team, always good to get a win in your first game as head coach, and the upset of 17th ranked Purdue in the first Big Ten game. Beating a ranked conference foe is a big deal and was made better because it was against Purdue who I possibly hate more than Michigan in women’s basketball.
WVaBuckeye - I have two that are ties from my perspective. First, was the way this team came out and performed to his expectations and that definitely became the catalyst for players who just weren’t going to handle the improvement. I think that’s a positive thing. Second, is the tireless work in which he and staff put in with regards to the class that’s coming in and the two stars transferring. The season and recruiting is a testament to him because he did a lot with very little so to speak.
After an impressive win at West Virginia in their opener and a narrow win at home against Florida Atlantic, the Ohio State women’s basketball team looked to continue their undefeated start to the season today as they hosted Virginia Commonwealth University Thursday night. The already shorthanded Ohio State roster suffered another blow earlier this week as junior guard Shelbi Honeycutt announced her decision to transfer from OSU in order to be closer to home and to get more playing time. Honeycutt is from Siloam Springs, Arkansas so her decision certainly makes sense and we wish her all the best. Honeycutt’s decision left the Buckeyes with nine available players for Thursday night’s game as Raven Ferguson is serving the last game of her three game suspension for violating team rules and Kalpana Beach is out with an ACL injury. While the current roster is small, good news awaits on the horizon as earlier in the day Kevin McGuff and the Buckeyes officially signed five new players (Asia Doss, Alexa Hart, Chelsea Mitchell, Kelsey Mitchell, and Makayla Waterman), four of who are ranked in the top 100 in the country, to a recruiting class that is ranked as high as #2 in the nation. While this new recruiting class promised great things for the future, the Buckeyes still had more pressing business to attend to in the form of the VCU Rams.
The game started out a little sloppy for Ohio State as they missed a few shots and had a pair of turnovers in the first two and half minutes which raised some concerns that the turnover issues that plagued the Buckeyes in the closing minutes against FAU would once again be a problem against a similar, fast paced, guard-heavy VCU team. OSU led 4-2 just over two and half minutes into the game but then things settled down, the Buckeyes started to take better care of the ball and hit their shots to take a 13-4 lead at the first media timeout while hitting 6 of 8 from the field. The Buckeyes extended that lead to 19-6 with eleven and half minutes remaining in the half when they hit what could have been a hiccup as Ameryst Alston picked up her second foul however guard Amy Scullion quickly scored five points to take care of any lost offensive production. After extending their lead to 26-11 with eight minutes remaining in the half, the Buckeyes started having turnover issues which fueled a 7-0 run by VCU. Ohio State recovered though and put together a 14 to 5 run to push the lead to 17 before a Rams’ three-pointer at the buzzer made it 40-26 Buckeyes at the break.
The start of the 2013-2014 season represents the dawn of a new era for Ohio State women’s basketball as Kevin McGuff begins his tenure as the head coach of the Buckeyes. After returning OSU to their proper place at the top of the Big Ten, Jim Foster was let go at the end of last season after three years of slipping performance. After two seasons as the head coach of Washington, McGuff returns to Ohio, he had been the head coach at Xavier for six years before taking the job with the Huskies, with the charge to get OSU to take the next step and compete for National Championships.
McGuff has promised an up-tempo, exciting style of play and his first couple months on the job have certainly shown that he understands up-tempo and exciting. He quickly assembled a coaching staff with a diverse variety of backgrounds: Joy Cheek (previously assistant coach at national power Duke), Patrick Klein (assistant coach at OSU under Foster), and Mark Mitchell (a state championship winning high school boys coach from Taft High School in Cincinnati). With no incoming class signed by Foster, McGuff knew that he had to hit the recruiting trail hard and he quickly made a splash, signing five high profile players (Kelsey Mitchell, Chelsea Mitchell, Alexa Hart, Makayla Waterman, and Asia Doss) who will don the scarlet and gray next season as part of perhaps the best recruiting class ever at OSU.
Adjusting to a new coach is always tough and this season the Buckeyes face the additional challenge of having to replace two of their top players and team leaders from last season as Tayler Hill and Amber Stokes graduated. Hill led the team in scoring (representing almost one third of OSU’s points), assists, and steals while Stokes was second on the team in steals and was third in points. Replacing both Hill and Stokes will be a tall task but OSU returns a lot of talent who have all played together before and who should now be much more comfortable with each other’s styles.
Anytime a new coach is hired a lot of importance is placed on their first recruiting class as it really sets the tone for their tenure. A good first recruiting class excites fans about the future of the program and catches the attention of future recruits as they see a coach building something that they want to be a part of. In the case of new Ohio State women’s basketball Coach Kevin McGuff, his first recruiting class was even more important as former Coach Jim Foster had failed to sign any recruits for the upcoming 2013-2014 season to replace the four seniors who graduated at the end of last season. Upon getting hired in April, McGuff immediately made the tough decision to not try to grab any last second recruits for the upcoming season and instead stick with the current team even though this would mean that the squad would only have 12 players instead of the normal 16; this dropped to 11 players when forward Kalpana Beach injured her ACL which will keep her out for at least the first couple months of the season. The benefits of this decision was that it acted as a vote of confidence to the current team, meant that McGuff could spend the time to make sure to get the players that he needs at OSU, and that it gave him 7 scholarships available for the 2014 class which featured a bevy of talent in the state of Ohio. It didn’t take long for McGuff to make a major splash in recruiting as it was announced on Tuesday that OSU had received verbal commitments from three players, including two ranked among the top 15 recruits in the country: Kelsey Mitchell, Cheslea Mitchell, and Alexa Hart.
Kelsey Mitchell is a 5’9” point guard from Princeton High School in Cincinnati who is ranked either 1st or 4th overall and 1st or 2nd among point guards in the 2014 class, depending on which recruiting service you want to believe. Kelsey is a star offensive player and is a threat to score from anywhere on the court as she possesses a nice three point shot and can attack the basket. Kelsey also takes advantage of the attention her star power draws to get teammates involved, showing solid passing ability especially off of the drive. On the other end of the court, Kelsey is a solid defender who has good instincts when it comes to jumping passing lanes and solid boxing out skills even against taller opponents. Last week Kelsey helped lead her AAU team, All Ohio Black, to a victory in the Summer Invitational, a feat that required overcoming a double digit deficit in the title game (http://prospectsnation.com/story/all-ohio-completes-comeback). Kelsey struggled with her shot early but compensated by getting the ball to teammates in good scoring position and in the end, she hit the game winning three-pointer. To get an idea of how Kelsey looks in action, check out this highlight video.
As I have previously said, new Ohio State women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff faces a number of challenges this season. In addition to the standard challenges a new coach faces in having to get to know his new team and build a staff, McGuff has to deal with having a roster that is depleted number wise. Stars Tayler Hill and Amber Stokes graduated along with fellow seniors Emilee Harmon and Brianna Sanders. After missing last season with an injured ACL, talented forward Kalpana Beach reinjured her surgically repaired knee and will miss at least a major portion of this season. These departures and injury, combined with the Buckeyes not signing any recruits for this season, means that OSU only have 11 healthy players on the roster, as opposed to the normal 16. Another challenge became apparent this week when OSU announced one of the toughest non-conference schedules that the program has ever had.
One of the explanations for Ohio State’s struggles in the postseason under Jim Foster was that the Buckeyes took on mostly cupcakes in their non-conference schedule and then beat up on a relatively weak Big Ten, leaving them unprepared for the higher level of opponents that they would run into in the NCAA tournament. This year’s non-conference schedule cannot be subjected to that criticism as the Buckeyes face 7 teams who made the NCAA tournament last year (4 of those in games that will be played outside of Columbus) and 3 more who made the WNIT.
This season The Buckeye Battle Cry and Our Honor Defend will once again be teaming up to bring you coverage of Ohio State women’s basketball. The season gets underway this Friday when OSU takes on Notre Dame in the first ever women’s basketball Carrier Classic game. The Buckeyes are coming off of a 25-7 season that got off to the best start in program history, winning their first 15 games, but fizzled down the stretch, ending in a disappointing first round loss in the NCAA tournament and a 16th place ranking in the polls. This season OSU opens at 19th in the rankings but despite that show of confidence by voters, many questions remain about the team.
When a team loses only one player to graduation, you would think that there would be many questions to concern yourself with, after all, almost everyone is back. However, when that player is Samantha Prahalis things aren’t so simple and the major question for your team is obvious, how will the Buckeyes replace the production and leadership of the 2012 Big Ten Player of the Year?
Check out the full season preview for a breakdown of the team by position and a guide to what you should expect to see on the court this year.
March is here and that means it is tournament time. The Ohio State women’s basketball team began their defense of their three straight Big Ten Tournament titles by facing Michigan today, the seventh seeded Wolverines had beaten tenth seeded Illinois yesterday while the second seeded Buckeyes had enjoyed a first round bye. Michigan entered this game having won three straight against Ohio State and the Buckeyes were undoubtedly looking for revenge.
The game got off to a slow start but Ohio State managed to build an early 7-2 lead in the first two minutes of the game. Michigan was playing for their NCAA tournament lives and responded with 10 straight points to take a 12-7 lead with thirteen minutes remaining in the half. A 7 to 2 run by the Buckeyes tied the game at 14 but the Wolverines took an 18-16 lead a couple minutes later. OSU responded with 7 unanswered to take a 23-18 lead with three minutes left on the clock. Michigan trimmed that lead to only three and the Buckeyes headed into the locker room with a 25-22 lead.
When ESPN selected tonight’s game between Ohio State and Penn State to be one of their Monday night games before the season started, people may have questioned why they would have chosen a matchup between the preseason conference favorite Nittany Lions and a Buckeye squad that was not picked to finish in the top four of the Big Ten. Now that decision looks like a brilliant one as tonight’s game featured a showdown between the two teams atop the conference standings and the top two offensive teams in the Big Ten.
The game opened as expected with both teams trading baskets while playing at a high tempo. Penn State features a talented group of guards but took a page out of Minnesota’s playbook by attacking inside. With the game tied at 9 the inside attack started paying dividends as not only where the Nittany Lions making baskets, they were drawing fouls, igniting a 9 to 0 run to give Penn State an 18-9 lead six and half minutes into the game. The Buckeyes finally got their offense going but they couldn’t stop the Penn State attack for more than a possession or two at a time. OSU got the Penn State lead down to five at one point and to four at another point but both times the Nittany Lions came roaring back to quickly extend the lead. After the Buckeyes pulled to within four, 28-24, with seven minutes remaining, Penn State promptly went on 13 to 2 run to extend their lead to 41-26 with just under two to go. That margin survived the rest of the half and Penn State went into the locker room with a 45-30 lead.