Women's basketball | Ohio State 70, West Virginia 61: Ohio State overcomes adversity in McGuff debut

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A little team that thought it could did last night at the WVU Coliseum.

The Ohio State women’s basketball team, down to eight players for its season opener against West Virginia, presented new coach Kevin McGuff with a gritty 70-61 debut victory over the more-seasoned Mountaineers.

The Buckeyes rallied behind sophomore guards Ameryst Alston and Cait Craft while playing a sticky zone defense that limited West Virginia to 19.4 percent shooting in the second half.

Alston attacked the basket and scored a career-high 29 points. Craft also reached career highs with 15 points and eight rebounds, and helped secure a sweet victory.

“I’ll remember that we overcame the most adversity that our team has ever faced,” Craft said. “We had people with injuries. We had people sick. We had people out. And we didn’t let that bother us at all.”

The Buckeyes played without two starters. McGuff suspended junior guard Raven Ferguson for three games on Thursday for a violation of team rules. Junior guard Maleeka Kynard suffered a sprained left ankle in practice this week and watched the game from the bench. Shelbi Honeycutt, another junior guard, had a migraine and was unable to play.

The Buckeyes responded by leaving all of the bad news on the team bus.

“Coming in, that wasn’t our focus at all,” Alston said. “We treated it like any other game. As Coach (McGuff) said, West Virginia didn’t feel sorry for us, so we couldn’t feel sorry for ourselves.”

The teams traded leads five times in the first half, and neither could pull away by more than five points. The Buckeyes led 41-40 at halftime. Alston already had 15 points, and Martina Ellerbe had 10 of her career-high 12.

“We’ve got a solid team,” Alston said. “We had some players that were sick and everybody stepped in and picked it up. Attacking the basket was very important. We tried to get the defense on their heels.”

Both teams had foul issues with the NCAA’s renewed emphasis on cleaning up physical play. Ohio State’s two most experienced post players, Ashley Adams and Darryce Moore, fouled out. Freshman center Lisa Blair also fouled out, leaving McGuff with five players as time expired.

But the Buckeyes still dominated the second half with defense.

“Tonight, I thought we had enough mixture of man and zone to keep them off balance and to not let them get into a rhythm,” McGuff said.

Asya Bussie scored after an offensive rebound at the 16:33 mark of the second half to cut an OSU lead to 49-45. The Mountaineers would not make another field goal until Bria Holmes hit a layup with 9:12 left.

By that time, the Buckeyes had a 59-49 lead, and they refused to give it up.

“I think at first we were a little taken aback with eight people,” McGuff said.

But the team, he said, quit “worrying about what we didn’t have.”

“That was the best thing about tonight,” McGuff said. “We played hard, and we competed. We faced some adversity, but we fought right through it.”

jmassie@dispatch.com

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