The warranty on the 2013-14 season could expire for the Ohio State women’s basketball team depending on what happens in its opening-round Big Ten tournament game against Northwestern today at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
A loss to the Wildcats (15-14) in Indianapolis will send the Buckeyes (15-17) into the offseason with the sour taste of being the first team ousted from the tournament. A victory will extend the warranty for another game while keeping the players together as a unit for a little while longer.
The eighth-seeded Buckeyes are wishing for the latter, which would include a third shot this season against top-seeded Penn State in a quarterfinal at noon on Friday.
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None of this is a surprise. This isn’t such a bad thing.
“I think it’s just easier to be focused to know that you only have so much time left,” junior guard Amy Scullion said. “You don’t have 25 practices left. You don’t have 10 games left. This is it. I have ‘the’ next game, and if I lose, I’m done.”
In this game, the team has added hope built on recent experience.
Eleven days ago, Ohio State played perhaps its best first half of the season in dispatching the ninth-seeded Wildcats 71-62 on senior day at Value City Arena.
“The game started at noon and we showed up at 1 (p.m.),” Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said. “We need to get our time zones right. We were just terrible in the first half. It’s the only game in the league where we had 20 turnovers.”
The Buckeyes led 41-21 at the break, but had to hold on for dear life over the final 20 minutes to get the victory. McKeown’s players know that they could have won.
“In that game, we had stretches where we played great,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “We were especially good defensively in the first half. We also had lapses in the second half and didn’t have the same focus and intensity. We didn’t handle our success very well. And they played better in the second half.”
The performance was the only one during the 1-7 closing stretch to conference play that saw good play outweigh bad for the Buckeyes.
Matching the senior day intensity shouldn’t be hard.
“Of course,” senior Martina Ellerbe said. “I mean, this is the Big Ten tournament. This is the last time that (the seniors) get to be in the tournament. That’s enough to amp us up.”
Leading scorer Ameryst Alston, a first-team all-Big Ten selection, has bounced back from an injury to her left shoulder she suffered at Iowa on Feb. 27. It limited her somewhat in a loss on Sunday at Minnesota.
Again, the stakes need no explanation to the coach ...
“There’s nothing to save anything for,” McGuff said. “Anything we got, let’s go ahead and roll it out there.”
Or the players …
“We absolutely have nothing to lose,” Scullion said. “If we don’t win the Big Ten tournament, we’re done this season. So we’ve got to get it done.”