This group of Ohio State women’s basketball seniors spent three years mostly obscured by two sizable shadows, and much of their final year, Marscilla Packer, Tamarah Riley and Alice Jamen were still stalked by the legacies of Jessica Davenport and Brandie Hoskins. Sunday when No. 18 Ohio State plays host to Northwestern at 2 p.m. at Value City Arena, the current trio will have a chance to do two things Davenport and Hoskins did not.
A victory over the Wildcats would equal at least a share of a fourth straight Big Ten title, and it would make Packer, Riley and Davenport the winningest class in school history.
All-American Davenport, All-Big Ten Hoskins and classmate Stephanie Blanton – a solid, four-year role player – took home three titles in their four years and currently share the school’s all-time wins record at 108.
None of the current seniors were willing to make a big deal about their last go-round at the VCA, but they all agreed on what they will focus their minds on.
“I’m really excited about it and I’m really proud of my teammates for the past four years,” Jamen said. “I’m just looking forward to winning another Big Ten championship.”
“We want to go ahead and get our fourth ring and after that continue on,” Riley added. “We’ve just got to be focused from here on out and be ready to play.”
Packer, from nearby Pickerington and the only Ohioan of the group, said she keeps having other people tell her the game Sunday is a big deal, “But I’m just like, you know what? You can’t stop it. It’s here and we’re going to enjoy it, but I think the best thing about it is we can win our fourth Big Ten championship on our senior night.”
Though perhaps not one for a lot of fanfare, Packer did say there would be a positive aspect of pregame festivities to honor her and her teammates. The ceremonies will keep the team occupied as Iowa plays at Wisconsin in a game scheduled to tip off at 1 p.m. EST.
The Hawkeyes, like the Buckeyes, enter the final day of the conference season with a 12-5 conference record. If both teams win, they will share the Big Ten title. If one wins and the other loses, the winner gets the outright crown, and on the outside chance both lose they will share the title with Purdue if the Boilermakers (11-6) win at Illinois.
Ohio State’s task is to keep Northwestern from putting a huge smiley face on the end of a dismal 5-24 campaign during which they have won just one Big Ten game.
The Wildcats, who have lost 14 in a row against Ohio State, led the Buckeyes by double digits early in the team’s first meeting of the year, Jan. 13 in Evanston, before the Buckeyes pulled away midway through the first half en route to a 77-55 win.
“It seems like since I’ve been here, all four years, they are one of the scrappiest teams in the Big Ten,” Riley said. “I know they are going to come out and try to get an upset. I’m not going to try and undermine them at all. We have a goal: We want to get our fourth ring and we want to do well at the end of the season here. That has to do with playing every time like they’re the best team.”
Although the road to the doorstep of another conference championship has been far more treacherous this season than it was the past two years – when Ohio State lost a total of three Big Ten games – OSU head coach Jim Foster said the fact his team is here is a credit to the ability of his kids to overcome adversity.
Aside from losing Hoskins, Davenport and Blanton to graduation, Ohio State also had to deal with injuries to three important players: starting guards Shavelle Little and Ashlee Trebilcock along with backup center Andrea Walker.
While Walker has been a healthy contributor in the second half of the season, Little (knee) and Trebilcock (undisclosed) remain day-to-day with their ailments.
“I think kids deserve some credit for fighting through stuff, not making excuses and figuring out ways to win,” Foster said.