A VIEW FROM THE FUNHOUSE
It’s possible to view the Ohio State Buckeyes 7-5 (0-1 B1G) as the reflections of a carnival funhouse mirror. Lean a bit left and they are a towering, imposing team capable of bumping off Louisville and hanging with UConn. Slide a bit right and the view distorts to a discombobulated low-rise squad losing at home to the Ohio University Bobcats. The Buckeye roster featuring seven freshmen and one senior seems prone to recurring deformation.
Adding to the watery distortion, during the non-conference season, head coach Kevin McGuff regularly played 10 players. The last player mixed into this rotation was, Oklahoma State transfer, junior guard, Braxtin Miller. Two days before season’s start the NCAA awarded Miller immediate eligibility. She slid into the starting lineup and immediately improved the Buckeyes outlook.
Starting the season with a lot of new faces is nothing new for Ohio State. Last year they imported five grad transfers; but never seemed to get beyond the introductions. OSU was 14-15 (10-8 in the B1G). This season, it’s the seven freshmen and Miller joined by three sophomores. While freshman Rikki Harris has not played (she is probably still recovering from a high school injury) the rest are getting court time.
Three Buckeye Games:
The 68-74 Loss to Ohio University: Like Minnesota’s first game versus Missouri State, the Buckeyes appeared a little nervous or disorganized in their home opener. It was a back and forth battle, but Ohio was just a bit more efficient than the Buckeyes. The Bobcats were 8-24 from three and Ohio State 4-21). From the foul line Ohio was 20-29 compared to Ohio State’s 14-22. And Buckeyes were a bit more foul prone. (Janai Crooms and Madison Greene fouled out and Aaliyah Patty collected four fouls). OSU rallied from a 53-47 end of third quarter deficit tying the game at 68 with 2:20 remaining. Then the Buckeyes went silent. It was the Bobcats first victory over the Buckeyes and doubly sweet because it was in Columbus.
The 67-60 Win Over Louisville: Cardinals head coach Jeff Walz had a few thoughts in his post-game presser. 1) The Cardinals didn’t play physically. 2) The Cardinals could score at will in the post; but stopped throwing the ball to the post. 3) The Cardinals had trouble defending Ohio State’s diagonal screens and cross screens. In conclusion he thought Oregon, whom Louisville had defeated earlier in the week, 72-62, was a better match up for the Cardinals. Oh yes, one more thing: Ohio State which shot .636 in the non-conference season from the foul line was 19-23 (.826) from the charity stripe versus Louisville.
The 66-50 loss to Purdue: No fun at the funhouse; the mirrors were unkind. The three players whom were suspended for the Sacramento State game returned for the Buckeyes (Croom, Bell and Satterfield); but had little effect. Ohio State was baffled by Purdue’s 2-3 match-up zone and befuddled far too often by Purdue’s pretty token press. The Buckeyes committed 19 turnovers; but the big failure was OSU’s inability to turn many of Purdue’s 23 turnovers into points. The leading scores for Ohio State were Juhasz, 12 points and Patty 8. The Funhouse Mirror Award winner was Mikulaskova; in 15:43 minutes of play she scored 2 points and committed 5 fouls.
In the series: Minnesota has lost 5 straight and 6 out of 7 to the Buckeyes. The Gophers last win was 90-88 in OT in Williams on February 24, 2016. Last season’s home loss capped a four game, seven of eight Big Ten losing streak that was only interrupted by victories over the Badgers. There were notable Gopher performances: Taiye Bello contributed 12 points and 18 rebounds and Destiny Pitts delivered 19 points (5-9 from three). Starting the fourth quarter tied at 43, Minnesota took a 45-43 lead. Then, the Gophers gave up one of those scoring runs that plagued last year’s team. Ohio State scored the next 16 points prevailing 65-55. The only current Buckeyes appearing in the game were Aaliyah Patty, who led all scorers with 20 while grabbing 6 rebounds and Janai Crooms with 9 points. The good news was that Minnesota’s next game launched a six game winning streak. The streak ended in Maryland; but that’s another story.
Wins: (N) Valparaiso 89-38, @ Cincinnati 78-73 (OT), @ Kent State 75-65, (N) Northern Iowa 64-46, Louisville 67-60, Radford 70-57, @ Sacramento State 104-74
Losses: Ohio 69-74, UConn 62-73, (N) South Dakota 53-68, @ Stanford 52-71 and Purdue 66-50.
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