A team that eats together, stays together.
For the Ohio State women’s basketball team, staying together will be a key if the Buckeyes want a chance at a post-season run, junior guard Ameryst Alston said.
“We need to just stick together,” Alston said. “When things are not always going our way, it is easy to kind of get out of what we do as a team.”
And in the toughest of times, it is important to be together off the court as much as a team should on the court. To do this, the Buckeyes have meals together at their favorite restaurant: Waffle House.
“That is our favorite restaurant,” freshman guard Kelsey Mitchell said. “We always go there.”
The smile on Alston’s face confirmed it: Waffle House is a typical team eatery.
“I’m a big fan of breakfast food,” she said. “It’s the All-Star special all the way.”
Coming off a 66-55 loss Saturday at Illinois, the closeness of this Buckeye squad could make or break the home stretch of the Big Ten season.
“I think every loss is a good learning experience,” Alston said. “We need to be sticking together through the losses and the hard times. If we do this then I think we have a really good team that could go far.”
However, Saturday’s loss was a painful one, coach Kevin McGuff said. He added that he hopes it will provide his team with perseverance as they look to close out the season on a strong note.
“We were certainly down after the Illinois game,” McGuff said. “But that is also part of being in the Big Ten, every night is tough. You have to be able to withstand those tough moments and learn from them.”
OSU is four games out from closing regular season play and is set to host Purdue on Tuesday.
After the Buckeyes beat the Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Ind., in overtime, 79-71, on Jan. 25, Purdue might put extra focus on Mitchell, who is averaging 25.2 points per game in her first collegiate season.
McGuff said because of this, the Buckeyes need to adjust so they are just as good offensively as they have been all season.
“We have a lot of good players,” McGuff said. “So they just need to sit back and be able to step up. At the same time. we need to run an offense that will still allow Kelsey to get good shots.”
The freshman, who leads the nation in scoring, has won over the respect of not only coaches in the Big Ten, but also her teammates.
“Kelsey has been amazing,” junior guard Cait Craft said before playing Iowa earlier this season. “I honestly don’t have words to describe her.”
This respect has reached beyond the basketball court, though, as Mitchell has taken charge of the beloved aux cord in the locker room, meaning, she chooses the pre-game jams.
“I’m DJ Kelsey,” Mitchell said. “It started the first game. I grabbed the cord and put on this song by a guy from Cincinnati and everyone fell in love with it.”
Between trips to Waffle House and listening to Mitchell’s playlists before games, this Buckeye team has been building its chemistry off the court so they can stick together on it.
“The biggest thing is to stick together, especially when things don’t go our way,” Alston said.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to face Purdue at 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.