The firing of coaches is met with a wide range of emotions by fans, with some firings eliciting happiness and shouts of “good riddance” from the fans while others spark anger in the fans for the loss of a beloved coach. The announcement that Jim Foster would not be returning as the head coach of the Ohio State women’s basketball team was met with a more complex set of emotions by many, including myself. My feelings regarding Foster’s firing would best be described as bittersweet. Foster was a great coach, and even better person, who markedly improved the women’s basketball program. At the same time, despite Foster’s dominance in the Big Ten he was never able to get the team to take the next step and the past three seasons had seen a decline even in the performance in conference.
As WVaBuckeye pointed out in the excellent first part of his series on Ohio State women’s basketball’s history of success, the Buckeyes dominated the Big Ten in the early days of the conference sponsoring the sport in the 1980s, also enjoying a run of NCAA tournament success during those years. By the late 1990s that dominance in the conference had evaporated, along with pretty much all of the postseason success. In the five years before Foster arrived, OSU had an overall record of 81-65 but went 35-45 in the Big Ten and never finished higher than a tie for fourth place in the conference. The Buckeyes did win the WNIT in 2001 but a sub-.500 record the following year led to the firing of Beth Burns as head coach and the hiring of Jim Foster.
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.
Almost a week after being snubbed with only an 8 seed in the NCAA tournament, Ohio State’s women’s basketball team finally got their chance to dance as they faced 9th seeded Florida. The Gators were a bubble team and thus were thrilled to see their name announced on Monday. The Buckeyes were less thrilled by where their name was called, not only were they given a worse seed than they expected, they were placed so that a first round win would most likely earn them a matchup against top overall seed Baylor, a team that has looked unstoppable this season. The mental state of Ohio State would play a big role in today’s game, did the seeding slight anger the Buckeyes and give them a chip on their shoulder or will they come out flat, still wondering what they could have done to get a better seed.
Florida opened up playing a high pressure, trapping defense that frustrated Ohio State and forced turnovers on their first three possessions as the Gators jumped out to a 12-2 lead early. The Buckeyes finally got their offense going and put together a 12 to 5 run to cut the Gator lead to 17-14. Florida quickly responded with a 13 to 3 run to extend their lead to 30-17 with a bit more than seven minutes remaining in the half. The teams began trading baskets but the Buckeye defense could not get stops to let them go on a run and cut into the lead. The Buckeyes got a little bit of a spark thanks to a late defensive stop that let them score the final four points of the half and go into the locker room down only 39-31.
Tonight the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament bracket was announced and Ohio State was not happy with the results. After finishing the season 25-6, tied for second in the Big Ten during the regular season, and ranked 16th in the country, the Buckeyes were shocked when it was announced that they would be an 8 seed. While the Buckeyes were 26th in the RPI and had suffered a late season skid, most expert had OSU slated as a 5 seed, personally I was expecting either a 4 or 5 seed. Instead the Buckeyes will face ninth seeded Florida in the first round with the winner facing the number one overall seed Baylor and its star center Britney Griner. The one bit of good news for the Buckeyes was that they would not have to travel far, getting sent to Bowling Green for the first weekend. Hopefully a large contingent of OSU fans will turn out to support the team and help them to overcome the major early roadblock that was thrown in their path; the Buckeyes and Gators will tip on Sunday at 12:15pm. Check out www.ourhonordefend.com on Wednesday for a more of my thoughts on Ohio State’s seed and first round matchup.
Now that the bracket has been announced, you can join the women’s tournament version of the BBN bracket challenge. Simply click here and join the group, the password is ‘sammy!’, and then create your bracket. Lets see who can take bragging rights as the best women’s tournament prognosticator.
After beating Michigan yesterday, Ohio State’s faced Nebraska in today’s Big Ten Tournament semi-final game. The Buckeyes and Cornhuskers split their regular season meetings with Ohio State winning in Columbus back in January and Nebraska winning in Lincoln to close the regular season. In their second meeting Nebraska had considerable success attacking the paint while their smothering defense frustrated the Buckeyes.
The game started off as a defensive battle with neither offense getting a lot of breathing room however Ohio State slowly managed to build a 10-2 lead over the first six and a half minutes. The two teams slowly began trading baskets but the Buckeyes managed to extend their lead to 21-8 with just over seven minutes remaining in the half. Nebraska had struggled to hit shots so far but that couldn’t last forever and the Cornhuskers got hot as they traded three-pointers with Ohio State before scoring 16 straight to take a 27-24 lead with just under three minutes remaining in the half. OSU finally ended the run with a Samantha Prahalis jumper but they could not stop Nebraska. To make matters worse, Prahalis had a flashback to her old lack of emotional control and earned a technical foul after dropping the f-bomb while complaining about the lack of a call. Even more concerning than Prahalis’s emotional slip was that she was limping the final minutes of the half as Nebraska extended their lead slightly to go into the locker room up 36-30.
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.
Today the Big Ten announced its annual women’s basketball awards and Ohio State did very well for itself. The top headline was Samantha Prahalis being named Big Ten Player of the Year by both the coaches and the media. Prahalis led the conference in assists, 6.5 per game, and her 20.4 points per game put her second in the conference in that category. Prahalis has 889 assists in her career and is only four away from becoming the Big Ten’s all-time leader in that category. This is the 8th straight year that a Buckeye has been named Player of the Year, an incredible run for the program.
Prahalis was not the only Buckeye to take home an award. Junior guard Amber Stokes was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Stokes typically drew the assignment of guarding the oppositing team’s top scoring threat and she excelled at it. Her quick hands routinely generated steals which often turned into easy fast break points and even when she didn’t get a steal, Stokes applied high pressure which normally took her target out of her game. Stokes was a key reason that Ohio State held opponents to 38% shooting on the year. This is the fourth time a Buckeye has won this award and the first time since 2009.
Tayler Hill and Samantha Prahalis were both named first team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media. Ashley Adams was given an honorable mention honor by the media, the coaches do not do honorable mention. The coaches name an All-Defensive team and both Stokes and Hill earned honors on that list. Congratulations to all the Buckeyes who took home awards.
Ohio State traveled to Lincoln today hoping to head into conference play on a winning streak and improve their seeding for the NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes had already locked up their spot in the conference but a win on the road against a ranked team would be a big statement for a team that has struggled down the stretch.
Ohio State jumped out to an early 8-4 lead as Samantha Prahalis scored the first 5 points for the Buckeyes. Nebraska came right back with a 9 to 2 run to take a 13-10 lead. The Buckeyes briefly retook the lead thanks to five straight points but then the Cornhuskers went on an 18 to 1 run to take a 31-16 lead with six minutes remaining in the half. During that stretch the Buckeye offense looked rattled and they could do nothing defensively to prevent the Cornhuskers from attacking inside. A pair of Tayler Hill free throws broke the Nebraska run and ignited a 6 to 0 mini-run for Ohio State which cut the Cornhusker lead back to single digits, 31-22. The two teams began trading baskets for the rest of the half with Ohio State getting the lead down to 6 but Nebraska scored the last four points of the half to head into the locker room up 39-29.