No tournament for Buckeyes women

OSU’s NCAA streak ends at 10; team won’t play in WNIT

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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The suspense lasted through 3 1/2 brackets tonight before the Ohio State women’s basketball team knew for sure that the season had come to a close.

The Buckeyes (18-13) watched the NCAA Tournament selection show in their new locker room at the Schottenstein Center while the first 56 teams learned their first-round opponents and destinations.

Oklahoma (22-10) finally showed up as the No.6 seed in the Oklahoma City regional for a game against 11th-seeded Central Michigan (21-11) at 11:10 a.m. Saturday at St. John Arena. The host Buckeyes fell silent with the next announcement: UCLA (25-7) had drawn the third seed against 14th-seeded Stetson (24-8) for the second game in Columbus.

The news, though painful, did not surprise coach Jim Foster, who said that he would not accept a spot in the postseason WNIT.

“I’m a realist,” he said. “It’s not about tradition or history.”

The Buckeyes had a program-record string of 10 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament coming into the evening. But a 1-7 start to the Big Ten season led to a 7-9 record in the conference. The losses included overtime games at Iowa and Purdue and a last-second loss to Minnesota that assured Ohio State of a below-.500 record in the league.

“If you have a losing record in conference, it makes it much more difficult,” Foster said. “We were sitting 1-7 on a slippery slope and then got some traction and finished strongly.”

The Buckeyes lost to Purdue in three overtimes on Jan. 14 without starting guards Tayler Hill (tonsillitis) and Amber Stokes (knee). Hill finished the season with her tonsils inflamed and said that she plans to schedule surgery to have them removed.

Junior center Ashley Adams and freshman guard Cait Craft also ended the season with injury issues. Foster said that he would rather those things were addressed than play in the WNIT.

“We have a couple of kids that need to have some medical stuff done,” he said. “It’s about them. I think to put them on hold even longer would be for what purpose? I think it would be somewhat self-serving and selfish to do that.”

Stokes and Hill, the co-captains, knew before that the team’s chances were slim.

“I was hoping,” Hill said. “I was asking where teams were at and who was left. We finished off the season so strong that there could have been a chance. But you look back at some of the bad losses we had, I’m not really sure if I’m surprised.”

Hill is expected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming WNBA draft. Stokes plans to play professionally overseas. If the returning players ask, Stokes will offer advice.

“They need to get ready for next year, even though this wasn’t a great season for us,” she said. “There are a lot of good players on this team. I look forward to watching them play.”

jmassie@dispatch.com

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