The Ohio State women’s basketball team has a history of NCAA disappointments.
Though the Buckeyes have played in the tournament each of the past eight seasons, they have only made it past the second round twice since 2003. Tonight, they have a chance to bump that number up to three.
No. 4 seed OSU (23-9) will tip off tonight against fifth-seeded Georgia Tech (24-10) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. If the Yellow Jackets win, they will make their first-ever appearance in the Sweet 16.
“We know what’s ahead of us,” said Jantel Lavender, who led the Buckeyes to their first-round victory Saturday. “Coach Foster … is making us ready to know what we have to do in the next game.”
Capitalizing on her height advantage over Central Florida’s starters, Lavender netted 30 points and picked up 11 rebounds in OSU’s 80-69 win Saturday.
However, the 6-foot-4 senior center won’t enjoy that same edge against the Yellow Jackets, whose starting roster includes four players at least six feet tall. UCF (22-11) didn’t start anyone taller than 5-10.
“We watch film on Georgia Tech as soon as we get in the locker room,” Lavender said following OSU’s first-round win. “They drive the basket; they want the rebound. We have to match that intensity.”
OSU is riding the momentum of a 10-game winning streak into tonight’s matchup.
“Our confidence level kind of boosted when we won our seventh game (in a row), eighth game, ninth, 10th,” Lavender said. “We know what we’re capable of doing. We realize who we are now, and everyone’s playing their role and they’re playing their role well.”
OSU coach Jim Foster said there was “no time to celebrate” after his team’s first-round victory because it had to focus on its next game, which he expects to be physical.
“We play in a pretty physical league; it’s not like we haven’t seen physicality,” Foster said. “Although, I’m not sure I’ve seen a body like the one kid, Alex Montgomery — she’s pretty ‘whoosh.'”
Montgomery, a 6-1 senior guard, leads the Yellow Jackets in points and rebounds this season, averaging 14.1 and 8.6 per game, respectively. She picked up 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in Georgia Tech’s 69-58 win against 12th-seeded Bowling Green (28-5) on Saturday.
But Foster said the Buckeyes have the talent to overcome the Yellow Jackets’ strong defense.
“When we’re patient, when we reverse the ball and move the ball, and when we get two reverses, at least,” he said, “we’re very hard to guard because then all of that offensive talent and ability that’s on the floor maximizes itself.”
Lavender is entering the game leading OSU in both points and rebounds, averaging 22.9 and 10.9 per game, respectively.
OSU will tip off against Georgia Tech at 7 p.m. tonight at St. John Arena.
“It’s not about trying to prove it to them, but just playing how we play and improving in the next game to come,” Lavender said. “I want to, you know, just show what we can do. I just want to play our game.”