Kevin McGuff knew it wouldn't be easy. His Ohio State women's basketball team, which entered the season ranked No. 6 in the country in the AP poll, would be matched up with the top two teams in the country in its first two games. An 0-2 start was a very real possibility.
It turns out that 0-2 was exactly how things happened. After a hard-fought 88-80 loss to No. 2 South Carolina in which the Buckeyes held the lead for awhile in the second half, top-ranked Connecticut showed up in Columbus last Monday evening and ran the team off its own court, 100-56.
"We got our [rear] kicked tonight," McGuff said after the blowout. "They were coached better. They played better. They were more prepared. They deserved to win by the margin they did."
The dynamic backcourt duo of sophomore Kelsey Mitchell and senior Ameryst Alston, who had combined for 59 points against the Gamecocks, were smothered by the Huskies. Mitchell scored a career-low eight points, while Alston managed just seven. McGuff's squad hit on only 33.3 percent of its shots as a team.
After the UConn dismantling, Ohio State had little time to lick its wounds, as Belmont came to town just three days later. In a big time bounce-back effort, the Buckeyes picked up their first victory of the season, knocking off the Bruins, 84-56.
Mitchell and Alston looked like their usual selves in the win, combining for 47 points and 10 assists. Senior Cait Craft also had a good night, racking up a career-high nine assists and scoring 15 points by tying her career best with five makes from beyond the three-point line. Ohio State was 16-38 (42.1 percent) as a team from deep, a vast improvement over its 3-19 (15.8 percent) effort against the Huskies.
"We were just looking for a chance to bounce back," Mitchell said after the game.
The Buckeyes held Belmont under 30 percent shooting, coming away with five steals, six blocked shots, and forcing 22 turnovers.
Continuing that trend, Ohio State evened its season record at 2-2 on Sunday with smothering defense in a 106-47 blowout win of its own over Wagner. The Seahawks shot a paltry 24.6 percent from the floor, including just 9-36 from beyond the arc, and turned the ball over 23 times.
In a game being played at St. John's Arena, Mitchell and Alston once again paced the offense, scoring 24 and 26 respectively. Junior Shayla Cooper also had a good day, turning in a double-double with her 15 points and 12 rebounds, as did freshman Kaylan Pugh, who notched career-highs in her first double-double with 18 points and 10 boards.
Up next for the Buckeyes will be a trip to Las Vegas and the South Point Shootout. The squad will take the floor Friday evening at 5:15 p.m. ET against Liberty University and Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. ET against a Texas A&M team that is ranked 12th in the country. Live video and audio of both games will be available at ohiostatebuckeyes.com.