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 Ohio State women’s basketball team officially opened the Kevin McGuff era on Friday with a trip to West Virginia. While most teams from major conferences tend to open the season at home against patsies, the Buckeyes opened their season with a challenging trip to face a team that made the NCAA tournament last season. As if having to replace their top two players from last season didn’t add enough extra challenge to the trip, OSU was without the services of a trio of junior guards: Raven Ferguson who is serving a three game suspension for violating team rules, Maleeka Kynard who has an injured left ankle, and Shelbi Honeycutt who was ill. This required the shuffling of the starting lineup from the exhibition game and the Buckeyes started guards Ameryst Alston, Cait Craft, and Amy Scullion and centers Ashley Adams and Darryce Moore.
Ohio State drew first blood with an Ameryst Alston jumper thirteen seconds into a first half that proved to a tight battle where neither team managed to lead by more than 5 points. The Buckeyes faced their biggest deficit of the half, down 20-23 just past the midpoint of the half but a three-pointer by Martina Ellerbe quickly knotted things back up. The Mountaineers pulled back ahead 27-28 with six minutes left in the half but Alston and Ellerbe each hit a pair of free throws and a three pointer to key a 10 to 4 run that gave OSU a 37-32 lead in the biggest score difference of the half. West Virginia came back and cut the Buckeye lead to one and the teams went into the locker room with Ohio State up 41-40.
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.