The Ohio State women's basketball team is halfway through a Big Ten schedule that has been plagued by inconsistency. The team has yet to string together two straight conference wins, and at 4-5, sits in a tie with Northwestern for seventh place.
"We've played well and then haven't backed it up with playing well as much as I would like," Head Coach Kevin McGuff said. "In general, I don't think we've handled prosperity. That's a cliche, I know, but we haven't come back with the same intensity and focus that we had shown in the game before."
One need only look at Ohio State's two games last week for an accurate depiction. On Thursday, the Buckeyes took on Illinois at Value City Arena, and came out flat. They trailed by 11 points after the game's first five minutes before catching a hot streak. The trio of sophomore guard Ameryst Alston, junior guard Raven Ferguson, and senior center Ashley Adams sparked the offense, en route to a 90-64 rout of the Illini.
Alston posted a career-high with 31 points, while also handing out 10 assists. Ferguson also set a career mark, scoring 24 points off the bench, and Adams didn't miss a shot, going 7-7 from the field for 15.
"We obviously had a poor start," McGuff said. "We had to call timeout and get ourselves together there and change strategy. I thought we moved the ball and played aggressively enough to generate quality shots. We got inside. Our size behind the defense, I thought was effective. Ashley is a lot bigger than them and we could throw it up to her."
Sunday, the Buckeyes traveled to Madison to play a Wisconsin team that had just two conference wins to its credit. It was the fourth Sunday of the Big Ten season in which Ohio State had an opportunity to win back-to-back games, and as has been the case all season, a lack of energy doomed the effort.
The Buckeyes fell 82-71, opening the game by missing eight of their first nine shots to fall behind, and getting soundly outrebounded and outhusteled by the Badgers. Ferguson paced the team in scoring, with 17 points off the bench. Senior center Darryce Moore added 15, sophomore guard Cait Craft 11, and Alston 10, which was seven points below her season average.
"We didn't have good energy to start the game," McGuff said. "They had more energy. We were lethargic and got ourselves in a hole, and I couldn't get five people into the game to play hard at the same time until there were six or seven minutes left.
"It seemed like we were just waiting for something good to happen instead of trying to make it happen. We let a missed call or a bad call or fatigue or whatever the case may be rattle us."
Ohio State will be hard-pressed to find the elusive winning streak this coming week, as back-to-back games against ranked opponents loom. The Buckeyes will travel to West Lafayette on Thursday to lock up with No. 19 Purdue, a team they defeated, 89-78, in their Big Ten opener. McGuff's squad will then return home for a tilt with Penn State on Sunday, hoping to avenge a 66-42 drubbing three weeks ago.
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