For fans and coaches alike, the Ohio State women's basketball season has been a roller coaster, with incredible highs, improbable wins, deflating lows, and confounding losses. The past week and a half has been no exception.
"When we make shots early, we tend to shoot the ball really well throughout the game," Head Coach Kevin McGuff said prior to Sunday's game against Iowa. "When we don't, we struggle. It's been kind of a recurring theme for us."
A big high came a week ago Saturday in the form of an upset in Bloomington, as the Buckeyes rolled to a 70-51 victory over undefeated No. 22 Indiana.
"We were really good in shoot-around today," McGuff said. "I thought it was the most focused we'd been in a shoot-around in a while. That's what I told them afterwards. I said, ‘Hey, there's a correlation there. The more we're into it and we concentrate, it's going to show up on the court.' "
Sophomore guard Ameryst Alston tied a career-high in the game, pacing Ohio State with 29 points. Junior forward Raven Ferguson added 18 off the bench, and senior forward Martina Ellerbe registered a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Alston's performance against the Hoosiers helped her to garner Big Ten Player of the Week honors for the first time in her career.
After shooting better than 53 percent from the floor against Indiana, the Buckeyes' offensive inconsistency returned Thursday against No. 16 Penn State in State College. Aiming for their third straight win against a ranked opponent, McGuff's squad shot worse than 30 percent en route to a 66-42 loss to the Nittany Lions.
"We didn't move the ball real well, which resulted in turnovers, which they were converting to points on the other end," McGuff said. "Then when we did get shots, we missed them. A lot of things came together for a really ugly night of offensive basketball for us."
Alston led the Buckeyes with 12 points, but shot just 4-17 from the field. Sophomore guard Cait Craft was also ice cold, shooting just 2-10 for 6 points. All of Craft's attempts came from beyond the three-point line.
After the dismal shooting performance against Penn State, hopes for a bounce back game were high on Sunday when Ohio State returned to Value City Arena to host Iowa. A season-high 7,567 were in attendance, but were treated to a rocky first half.
This time it was the defense that faltered, as the Hawkeyes hit six three-pointers and numerous open layups on their way to a 49-36 lead after twenty minutes.
"Clearly our problem was at the defensive end," McGuff said. "And Iowa is so good on offense that if you make mistakes on defense, they're going to make you pay. That's our worst defensive half probably all year."
The Buckeyes mounted a furious second half comeback, cutting the deficit to as little as two, but simply could not get enough stops on defense, ultimately falling, 81-74.
Alston again led Ohio State's scoring, pacing three players in double figures with 24 points. Ellerbe added 17 and Ferguson 11 as the team fell to 12-9 on the season and 2-3 in Big Ten play.
The Buckeyes will look to avenge a 15-point loss earlier this month when they travel to Ann Arbor to play Michigan on Thursday, before returning home to host Michigan State on Sunday.