OSU women begin NCAA quest today


By Jim Massie

The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS

At some point, the flickering light surrounding the Ohio State women’s basketball team finally steadied enough to illuminate the way that the Buckeyes so desperately wanted to go.

The exact moment is open to discussion. The final destination, however, remains well down a road that begins today in St. John Arena when fourth-seeded Ohio State (22-9) plays 13th-seeded Central Florida (22-10) in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The first game, matching fifth-seeded Georgia Tech (22-10) against 12th-seeded Bowling Green (27-4), tips off at 11:20 a.m.

Ohio State enters the Dayton Regional on a nine-game winning streak that included the Big Ten tournament championship. The turnaround, which began a few weeks before that, is history that the players no longer enjoy recounting.

“People bring it up,” junior point guard Samantha Prahalis said. “Some of it was that we weren’t playing hard every single second of the game. We had to get it together collectively as a group, and that’s basically it.”

Yes and no, because opponents continue to look for the former group that stood 13-9 overall and 4-6 in the Big Ten. The Knights, the Conference USA champions, hope their high-octane offense will return Ohio State to the bad old days.

“We just watched them as a team as a whole,” Central Florida senior D’Nay Daniels said. “We see their strengths and weaknesses, and we want to focus on how we can beat them as a team — use their weaknesses to our advantage and use our size to our advantage and our quickness, as well.”

The size reference is interesting because the Knights don’t start a player taller than 5-foot-10. The Buckeyes begin inside with 6-4 All-America center Jantel Lavender and 6-5 freshman Ashley Adams.

The senior class, which includes Lavender, Brittany Johnson, Sarah Schulze and Alison Jackson, has advanced only as far as the Sweet 16 in three NCAA appearances. This is a last dance.

“We’ve talked about it, as a team actually,” Johnson said. “Everybody else is playing for us and playing for the team. They know it’s our last year. But we’ve also got to stay focused on the game and put all this senior stuff behind us and just play.”

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