The Ohio State women’s basketball team (19-9, 10-6 Big Ten) begins postseason play Friday night with a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
For the No. 5-seeded Buckeyes, the first hurdle of defending its back-to-back championship titles and boosting its NCAA Tournament résumé will be No. 4-seeded Iowa (22-7, 10-6).
OSU and Iowa split their two regular-season encounters. In the teams’ first contest of the year, the Buckeyes lost, 89-76, Jan. 8 in Iowa City, Iowa. OSU then redeemed itself with an 81-67 win against the Hawkeyes on Jan. 24 at the Schottenstein Center.
Iowa has aspirations for postseason success as well.
Entering the tournament as the No. 24-ranked team in The Associated Press Top 25 Poll, the Hawkeyes boast a five-game winning streak.
Both teams have an intimate knowledge of each other, and Buckeye coach Jim Foster spoke after practice Wednesday about the threat Iowa poses for his team.
“They really spread the floor,” Foster said. “Their guards are very good off the dribble. They’re a good basketball team.”
Foster said Hawkeye senior guard Kachine Alexander is someone who could play a major role in the game.
“Alexander is unique,” Foster said. “She’s a 5-foot-(9) player that can get double-digit rebounds. That’s unique talent.”
But Foster said he can expect a strong offense from his team every night.
“From an offensive perspective,” he said, “(we’re getting) great ball movement and taking care of the ball and timely shots.”
With the Buckeyes riding a six-game winning streak into the tournament, Foster said other conference teams are considering OSU a threat.
“Once we figured it out, I really liked the stretch of games,” he said. “I think there’s people in our league looking at our stretch down the end and saying they’re in trouble.”
Senior center Jantel Lavender said OSU’s current streak proves the Buckeyes are “a good team.”
“Even though I don’t think we had a great start, I still think that teams knew we were a team to be reckoned with,” she said. “It has started to really show.”
The ultimate measure of the 2010–11 Buckeyes’ season, Lavender said, will be how well the team performs in the postseason.
“I think it’s obvious that we have to make a run in the postseason,” she said. “I think we can make a run and show the world that we’re a great team.”
Sophomore guard Tayler Hill might have summed up her team’s outlook best.
“We’re getting better,” Hill said Wednesday, “and I don’t know if a lot of teams can say they’re getting better.”
OSU’s Friday game against Iowa will tip off about 8:30 p.m.