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Ohio State women’s basketball team eyes rematch with Michigan Wolverines

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OSU freshman guard Kelsey Mitchell looks up at the shot clock during a game against Indiana Feb. 8 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 78-70.  Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

OSU freshman guard Kelsey Mitchell looks up at the shot clock during a game against Indiana Feb. 8 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 78-70.
Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

Despite winning five of its last six games, the Ohio State women’s basketball team is not satisfied.

The Buckeyes got back to their winning ways Sunday with a 78-70 win over the Indiana Hoosiers, and are looking to build on their momentum as the end of the regular season nears.

“Everybody is so hungry and comes so excited to work hard,” junior guard Cait Craft said. “So when we are experiencing tough times, it makes it that much easier to come to practice every day when everyone is still wanting to get better.”

The Buckeyes have fought through adversity, including learning that multiple players wouldn’t be available this year, on their way to a 16-8, 8-4 record and a chance to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012.

“It hurts a little bit (not playing in the NCAA tournament),” Craft said. “That has always been the ultimate goal, to play past the Big Ten tournament.”

The year started with season-ending injuries to redshirt-freshman guard Kianna Holland and freshman forward Chelsea Mitchell. That was followed by coach Kevin McGuff’s dismissal of senior guard Raven Ferguson for violating team rules, which left Craft, fellow junior Ameryst Alston and redshirt-senior guard Amy Scullion as the most experienced players on the Buckeye roster.

“To think back at the beginning of the season, we were a young team,” Craft said. “A young team with little experience on how things went.”

The Buckeyes went on to open their season losing four of their first nine games before 6-foot-2 sophomore transfer Shayla Cooper became eligible at the end of December, adding much-needed depth to the Buckeye bench.

“Shayla does a lot for us,” Craft said before a game at Purdue on Jan. 25. “She rebounds, she brings energy, she scores. She is a huge part of our team.”

Since joining the lineup, OSU has gone on to win nine of its next 13 matchups, including a 103-49 dismantling of Indiana on Jan. 8.

However, bad news came again when it was announced last week that redshirt-sophomore forward Kalpana Beach would undergo knee surgery to end her season.

“That was devastating,” freshman guard Kelsey Mitchell said after the announcement.

OSU is now entering a rematch with Michigan, a team they lost to, 100-94, in overtime earlier this season. McGuff said he believes the Buckeyes are a different team than they were in the loss to the Wolverines.

“I think we have certainly made progress,” McGuff said. “We are a better basketball team and we have gotten better at handling adversity.”

The loss at Michigan on Jan. 11 exposed many defensive weaknesses for the Buckeyes as they gave up triple-digits to a Big Ten team for the first time since 1996.

“Our defense was not where it needed to be,” Craft said. “We dug ourselves into a hole early. We came out of it, but we didn’t execute at the end to win.”

The loss a month ago marked a turning point in the OSU season and Craft said she believes changes have been made on the defensive end as well as growth in the young team.

“I think at this point in the season, we are a lot better defensively than we were then,” Craft said. “And to see the growth in the freshman, that has been one of the most exciting things.”

Now, just six games from completing the regular season, the Buckeyes have a chance to prove their improvement with the rematch with Michigan looming.

“Hopefully tomorrow will be a different story,” Craft said. “Everyone loves each other, everyone is there for each other and is playing for each other. There is nobody on this team that is just about themselves.”

Tip-off is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.

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