Look around the NCAA women’s basketball landscape and there are similarities. Most teams play a heavy rotation of seven to eight players in any given game. Outside of non-conference outlier performances where a program is dramatically better than another, coaches rely on starters and a select two or three reserves to execute a team’s game plan. When injuries or poor runs of play creep into the equation, there’s a potential for disaster.
Currently, the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball team is in a disaster scenario — and they keep on winning.
Down two starting point guards — one out for the year and the second with no set timetable for return, the Scarlet & Gray won three straight. Of those three, two came against ranked opponents and the stretch began with Ohio State clawing back from almost certain defeat in overtime to keep their undefeated start to the season intact.
Saturday was the toughest challenge yet for head coach Kevin McGuff and the Buckeyes. Ohio State welcomed the No. 14 Michigan Wolverines to Columbus and went down 8-0 almost immediately.
“We were kind of taking quick shots and you can’t do that against Michigan,” said McGuff. “You’ve got to be able to move the ball side to side to kind of break them down a little bit. They’ll force you into some tough shots early and we were doing that too much.”
It showed how things could be going for the Buckeyes right now. After all, missing a cog in the defensive press like Jacy Sheldon and your top assist creator in Madison Greene, it’s expected that things won’t go Ohio State’s way.
The Buckeyes scored only nine points in the first quarter. That’s their lowest to start a game all season, and only the second time Ohio State failed to score 10 in a quarter since the start of the 2022-23 season.
Stepping into the game in to help fill that void was an unlikely name, senior guard Hevynne Bristow. Unlikely not due to a lack of hard work and skill, but when Ohio State’s been fully healthy, Bristow’s name hasn't been called.
Bristow played high school basketball in Brooklyn, New York before heading off to college, playing with the Providence Friars. In one season in Rhode Island, then freshman Bristow played 261 minutes in 29 appearances.
After transferring to Ohio State prior to the 20/21 season, Bristow faced injury issues. In two seasons, the 6-foot-1 guard played just 111 minutes, scoring 40 total points.
This season, Bristow’s outlook improved, and results followed. Although she played only two minutes against ranked opponents, both of them to start the year against the then No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers, the non-conference schedule allowed Bristow to log more minutes.
The guard averages 4.9 points per game (a career-high) and grabbed 40 rebounds so far this season. Those rebounds were crucial in games against non-conference opponents to put the Buckeyes ahead in games, a stat Ohio State doesn't exactly dominate.
Although Bristow wasn’t getting time on the court in the biggest games of the season, she wasn’t downtrodden on the bench. Bristow brings energy and leadership to the bench, hyping up her teammates. When it comes time to play though, Bristow’s prepared.
“I just got to stay ready in practice,” said Bristow. “Coaches are pushing me, my teammates are pushing me.”
On Saturday, Bristow played 18 minutes, which, combined with 21 minutes against the then No. 16 Oregon Ducks on Dec. 21, she has played 39 minutes in two games against ranked opponents in the past two weeks as injury concerns grew.
Down 10-9 after one quarter, Bristow came into the game in the second quarter and made an impact. Outside of her four points in the quarter, second only to starting guard Taylor Mikesell, Bristow grabbed three rebounds and made a monster block.
It wasn’t a block as much as it was grabbing the ball from the outstretched arm of Michigan forward Cameron Williams, almost holding possession from the block single-handedly if not for Williams fouling Bristow.
On the downside, Bristow did commit four fouls in the game; perhaps unsurprising given her especially strong play in the paint and knocking off some rust, but she made up for them.
In the closing minutes of the first half, Bristow fouled Michigan forward Emily Kiser and sent her to the line. On the second free throw, Kiser missed and Bristow grabbed the rebound. In the same possession, Mikesell found Bristow who attacked the basket, making a nice step to split defenders and hit the layup that gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the game.
Bristow played only one minute in the third quarter but played all 10 to close out the game. The guard had a second block and scored the first four points of the quarter for Ohio State. They were four important points too because if she wasn’t on the court to score them the Maize and Blue would’ve grabbed a late lead and potentially the momentum to carry it to a win.
Instead, Bristow continued her Euro-steps in the lane, starting a run where the Buckeyes scored 12 of the next 14 points.
It’s easy to see on the court, but coach McGuff described the 2022-23 Buckeyes team, and performances like Bristow’s, after the game.
“Our kids love playing with each other,” said McGuff. “They show great competitive character every night out and I think we have a lot of people emerging, and stepping up just doing whatever it takes for them to contribute to the win.”
The heart of the Buckeyes on Saturday said it a different way.
“It just shows to prove what a good team we are because we’re down two starters and everybody next up is ready still,” said Bristow. “So, one through 15, we’ll be ready.”