When people think of Ohio State women’s basketball history, the first name that comes to mind is normally that of Katie Smith and Smith is very deserving of being the face of the program thanks to her record setting career and distinction as being the first women’s basketball player at OSU to have her jersey retired. However Smith’s jersey isn’t the only women’s basketball jersey hanging from the Value City rafters; located next to Smith’s jersey is the #44 jersey worn by Tracey Hall who is one of the most under-appreciated Buckeyes in history.
The Big Ten started sponsoring a women’s basketball championship in the 1982-1983 and by the time that Tracey Hall arrived at Ohio State in the 1984-1985 season, the Buckeyes had already won the first two Big Ten titles and had made two appearances in the three year old NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Considering the strength of the OSU program one wouldn’t necessarily have expected a freshman forward from Cleveland Heights to make a huge impact right away. Hall quickly proved those expectations wrong, starting from day one in the scarlet and gray and leading the team in field goal percentage (60.1%) and rebounds (257 for an average of 8.3 per game). Her performance helped lead Ohio State to a 28-3 record (18-0 in the Big Ten), a conference title, and a trip to the NCAA Elite Eight. Hall’s performance earned her the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and got her 2nd team All-Big Ten honors.
This is the first in a two part series about Ohio State women’s basketball and it’s bookend dominance of the B1G since play began in 1982. I will be highlighting the B1G champs during their dominance as well as some very special players and coaches at OSU in the last thirty years.
Let’s get things started with the eighties and how the Lady Buckeyes led the way. They won 7 of the first 8 titles in the B1G and 8 overall in the early era. If you include the ones that aren’t officially counted by the B1G they won 11 since the 1975-76 seasons.
The Lady Buckeyes really got started in the 1965-66 season under the direction of Phyllis Bailey as they made the transition from an intramural team to big time college basketball. The ERA movement was in full swing and the ladies were moving into the sports realm with basketball being one of the first and most popular of college sports to see this growth.
They struggled to find their way in the early years until OSU hired a young lady who would turn things around and eventually leave coaching to become a renowned psychologist. Debbie Wilson led the Buckeyes from 1972 thru 1980 season and even thought there wasn’t a B1G tournament officially, she led them to three straight titles in 1976, 77, and 78 and thus set the standard for what would become the most dominating team in B1G basketball history. Read More