Coach Kevin McGuff knows that for the Ohio State women’s basketball team to be successful this postseason, the Buckeyes need to be playing their best basketball in March.
And if Saturday night’s 100-82 drubbing of the No. 13 Iowa Hawkeyes is any indication, the Buckeyes are well on their way to that goal.
“It is important to be playing our best basketball this time of year,” McGuff said in a postgame press conference. “And I certainly think that we have played two of our best games in the past week.”
The Buckeyes took down Purdue, 92-60, on Tuesday and followed it up with an upset against Iowa in front of a home crowd for the final time this season.
Facing an Iowa defense that was seemingly focused on shutting down freshman sensation Kelsey Mitchell, the Buckeyes had three players with double-doubles and found offensive contributions to complement Mitchell.
And it all started with junior guard Ameryst Alston.
“Ameryst was spectacular tonight,” McGuff said. “She did everything right. She was a superstar.”
Alston led the Buckeyes with 29 points and a career-high 11 assists. She scored 20 of her points in the second half where the Buckeyes used defensive changes to turn a 48-45 halftime deficit into a big win.
“We beat an excellent team today,” McGuff said. “Iowa is a really good basketball team and they are ranked for a reason. I am really proud of our players.”
Having two stars like Mitchell and Alston playing side-by-side creates matchup problems for opponents, but Alston said Mitchell is the one who leads the way.
“She is doing everything that everyone expected her to do,” Alston said. “We definitely look to her as one of our leaders on and off the floor. She is so much fun to play with.”
Like Alston, Mitchell holds playing with her older counterpart in high regards.
“It is amazing,” Mitchell said. “I appreciate her and love her on and off the court.”
Alston and Mitchell have been key in building an offensive powerhouse in Columbus that has averaged 96 points over the past two games.
“It’s a lot of fun when everybody is contributing,” Alston said. “They can take us (Alston and Mitchell) away, but they can’t take everybody away, which makes us very hard to guard.”
The Buckeyes have just two games left in their regular season schedule, and are set to hit the road to face Penn State and then travel to Nebraska.
As the season winds down, Alston said sticking together will be key as the Buckeyes try to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years.
“The chemistry is definitely there,” Alston said. “We have great chemistry and everybody has the same goal.”
The Buckeyes are set to take on the Nittany Lions Thursday in State College, Pa. Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m.