In a competitive year for the Big Ten conference, there is no room for a letdown.
That is exactly what the Ohio State women’s basketball (13-10, 3-4) team look to avoid Thursday when it takes on a reeling Illinois (9-11, 2-5) squad that has lost six of its last eight games.
Despite the poor record of Illinois, OSU coach Kevin McGuff said Illinois is a more than capable team.
“Illinois is really talented. They have played really well at times,” McGuff said. “Quite frankly, I am a little surprised at their record because I know they are very well-coached and have some talent.”
McGuff said he is worried about the threat coach Matt Bollant and the Illini can pose with their speed.
“They are not big, but they are fast,” McGuff said. “Hopefully some of our size around the basket can bother them.”
That size, of course, comes from 6-foot-5-inch Ashley Adams and 6-foot-2-inch Darryce Moore, the senior Buckeye centers who could be poised for a big game despite struggling in the team’s last game against Michigan State, with Moore scoring eight and Adams failing to score.
“We have a pretty big team, as far as our post players,” sophomore guard Ameryst Alston said. “Our post players should have a field day.”
Illinois leads the Big Ten in steals (225) and turnover margin per game (+6.05), something which Alston said the Buckeyes have to notice.
“They do play this funky zone,” Alston said. “They do a good job of turning other teams over. Limiting our turnovers will be a difference in the game.”
Figuring out the defense of Illinois has been the focus this week for the Buckeyes as Alston and junior guard Raven Ferguson were the first two into the locker room for film study, something Alston said is common.
“We spend a lot of time with each other off the court,” Alston said with a grin. “We have so much chemistry and I think us being close off the court helps on the court.”
Alston and Ferguson have led the Buckeyes for most of the season in the scoring column, but sophomore guard Cait Craft ended her scoring struggles Sunday against Michigan State with 12 points on 50 percent shooting from the field. It was Craft’s first game notching double digits in points since a victory over Purdue Jan. 2.
“I struggled the last couple of games after our Big Ten opener,” Craft said. “With the constant support of my teammates and constant encouragement, it is easy to get back in the flow.”
Craft is tied for third on the team with both Moore and senior forward Martina Ellerbe with an average of 8.8 points per game.
The Buckeyes know the matchup with Illinois will not be easy, Craft said.
“Their style is a lot different, but they are still a very good team,” Craft said. “Any given night, anybody can beat anybody.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to take on the Illini Thursday at the Schottenstein Center at 7 p.m.