A long summer gives way to a quick chance to regain at least a little face this afternoon for the 16th-ranked Ohio State women’s basketball team.
After spending the offseason lamenting a first-round NCAA tournament upset, the Buckeyes open the season with a chance to exorcise a demon or two when they play host to Marist, the same team that dealt them that shocker back in March.
When the ball goes in the air for the first time at 2 p.m. at Value City Arena, the visitors figure to more closely resemble the team they put on the court last season than will the hosts.
Four starters return for a Marist team that beat fourth-seeded Ohio State 67-63 in the opening round last year and went on to the Sweet 16 to be knocked out by eventual national champion Tennessee.
For the Red Foxes, that group includes leading scorer Rachele Fitz, a forward who scored 16 points against Ohio State last season as she wrapped up a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference freshman of the year campaign, and junior guard Julianne Viani, who hit six 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 24 points against the Buckeyes.
Meanwhile, Ohio State head coach Jim Foster said he might start a lineup with just one regular starter from last season.
“We’re still futzing around with it,” he said of his lineup.
That one familiar face is presumably senior guard Marscilla Packer, a captain who is the team’s leading returning scorer (10.4 points per game) and one of the top 3-point shooters in school history.
Beyond that, a large pool of players is in contention for playing time.
With sophomore center Andrea Walker out with an unidentified injury, the main contenders for playing time in the frontcourt are junior Star Allen – a starter last season and a second-team All-Big Ten pick – along with senior Tamarah Riley and freshman Jantel Lavender.
“Tam Riley has had a great preseason, just a great preseason,” Foster said. “She’s played very steadily and mistake-free.
In the backcourt, one of two sophomores will likely start at point guard: Maria Moeller started every game there last year, but Foster praised Shavelle Little for her offseason work.
At shooting guard, junior Ashlee Trebilcock would seem to be a frontrunner for a starting nod but freshmen Brittany Johnson and Alison Jackson are in the mix as well.
“Shavelle spent a lot of time this summer working on aspects of her game,” Foster said. “Maria and Shavelle are both better, which is good for the point guard position regardless of which one is playing it.
“We’re a work in progress and will be for a while.”
Getting Trebilcock settled in could be a big key to figuring out what the finished product will be.
A part-time starter last season, Trebilcock filled in for the injured Brandie Hoskins last February and March, but her preseason was interrupted by a car accident.
She said she missed almost a month of practice dealing with a concussion, but watching from the sideline gave her the opportunity to get better mentally.
“Once I got back on the floor I felt pretty comfortable getting back into stuff,” she said, noting that she still needs to iron out some mental errors and get her conditioning back.
With the new season dawning, Trebilcock is as much in the center of the OSU-Marist story as anyone.
Had the Buckeyes found a way to pull out the victory against the Red Foxes, one of the big stories would have been Trebilcock.
She scored a career-high 23 points and grabbed six rebounds in that contest, providing the best Buckeye performance as Big Ten player of the year Jessica Davenport struggled to a 13-point, 11-turnover performance in her final collegiate game.
Today represents a chance to look back and move forward, though.
“Obviously Marist comes up in the locker room every once in a while,” she said, adding that reminders of that game are hardly necessary.
“If you don’t know by now, then you probably shouldn’t be playing basketball with this team,” she said. “We all know what we have to do and how we have to prove ourselves against this team.”