The Ohio State women’s basketball team visits Illinois tonight for an 8 p.m. contest that will kick off the second half of the Big Ten season.
The Buckeyes will go into action perched at their usual spot atop the conference standings, but they have plenty of work to do before the arrival of March.
To start with, the young Buckeyes need to improve on a 2-2 road conference record (they are unbeaten at home against Big Ten foes).
To do that, they would probably like to bottle whatever it was that propelled them to a 36-point beatdown Monday night of visiting Penn State, a team that entered the contest ranked No. 24 in the RPI.
The Buckeyes certainly will want to avoid the pitfalls that held them to just 43 points the first time they faced the Fighting Illini this season.
That initial Illinois game, which Ohio State won thanks to a three-pointer in the final seconds by Maria Moeller, marked the Buckeyes’ lowest scoring output since 2002 and the fewest points Ohio State has scored in a win in more than 35 years.
Since then, however, the Buckeyes have scored 79, 70 and 89 points.
So it would seem that tonight’s game is a good bellwether for the progress of head coach Jim Foster’s club, although he might disagree.
The coach contended yesterday that much of the 32.7-percent shooting from the floor could be attributed to self-inflicted wounds.
“Film would say that we were much more responsible for that than their defense,” he said.
Quick shots, missed layups and a dearth of ball reversals were the culprits.
“A lot of detail things – (we need) more ball movement, more continuity to our offense. Our ball-movement has been much improved since that game. When the ball doesn’t move, we’re much easier to guard.”
In that first Illinois game, Jantel Lavender, Foster’s star freshman post player, had arguably her toughest night since first donning the scarlet and gray.
With 10 points she maintained her streak of double-digit scoring in ever game of her college career and posted her ninth double-double of the season by snaring 12 rebounds, but Lavender found it harder than usual to put the ball in the basket.
On the season, she is second in the Big Ten with a field goal percentage of 52.0 percent, but she made just 4 of 12 against the Fighting Illini.
“I was just missing easy shots, blowing layups,” she said. “It just wasn’t falling for me.”
She agreed with her coach’s explanation for the team-wide struggles.
“I think we were playing against ourselves that game,” Lavender said. “We didn’t do some of the things that we needed to do, so we made it harder than it really was.”
While consistent execution on the offensive end has been a yearlong exercise, the Buckeyes found against Penn State just how much attacking on the defensive end can foster scoring opportunities.
“I think in the last game we played very good defense and that’s why we had such a high-scoring game,” Lavender said. “We were reversing the ball more and having more open areas and it was just opening up the floor. Transition defense was the main thing.”