Nebraska is 9-3 in Big Ten play, tied for second place and will look to pick up its 20thwin of the season overall when the Huskers hit the road to face Ohio State Thursday night at 6 p.m. (central) in Columbus. Nebraska is seeking its third-straight 20-win season, which has never occurred in school history.
Ohio State is in the midst of a four-game losing streak after falling at Michigan State 70-49 Saturday afternoon. The Buckeyes are 4-8 in Big Ten play and .500 overall on the season with a 14-14 record.
A perennial NCAA Tournament team, OSU fired long-time coach Jim Foster after missing out on the postseason last year. First-year Buckeye Head Coach Kevin McGuff spent nine years as the head coach at Xavier before winning 41 games in two seasons at Washington. He also was an assistant coach with Penn State Head Coach Coquese Washington on the Notre Dame staff under Muffet McGraw for six seasons. McGuff inherited an 11-player OSU roster that didn’t have any incoming freshmen and had lost last year’s top two scorers. Tayler Hill was the Big Ten’s leading scorer last season and was the fourth overall pick in the WNBA draft by the Washington Mystics. Amber Stokes averaged 10 points per game and was a former league Defensive Player of the Year.
OSU did return three starters from last season’s 18-13 team, but those three combined for just 22 points per game. Only one other player on the roster averaged as many as four points a game in 2012-13.
Ameryst Alston is the point guard and the team’s leading scorer (17.6 points). The 5-9 sophomore was a member of the Big Ten All-Freshman team last year and had a game-high 25 points in Saturday’s loss at Michigan State. She attempted a league-high 32 shots in the game, which was 47 percent of Ohio State’s field goal attempts. She has started all but one game this season for OSU.
Cait Craft is the only Buckeye to start every game. Craft’s brother Aaron was the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and the 2013 Big Ten Tournament MVP for Ohio State and is a senior on this year’s club for Thad Matta. Cait, a 5-8 guard, leads the team in three-pointers (32) and averages 8.2 points per game.
Junior Amy Scullion, a 6-0 guard, has been a starter for 27 of the 28 games this season and adds 2.9 points per contest. Forward Martina Ellerbe has started each of the last 22 games and averages 8.5 points and is tied for the team lead with 6.0 rebounds per game. Senior forward Darryce Moore has started the last six games and 26 of OSU’s 28 games overall. She is tied with Ellerbe for the team lead in rebounds and adds 8.6 points per game.
Two starters from last season’s team come off the bench for the Buckeyes this year. Raven Ferguson, a 5-11 junior, is second on the team behind Alston in scoring (10.9 points) and assists. Ashley Adams, a 6-5 senior center, leads the team in blocked shots (51) and averages 6.1 points per game. However, Adams only played four minutes and was held scoreless Saturday at Michigan State. Her usual minutes off the bench were taken by 6-6 redshirt freshman Lisa Blair, who recorded a career-high 21 minutes and four blocked shots. Despite the career highs, Blair did not score, attempting just one shot.
Ohio State’s offensive woes are reflected in their rankings in Big Ten statistics. They are last in scoring offense (65.0 ppg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (0.75). OSU also is 10th in the league in rebounding margin (-2.5) and was outrebounded by 24 at Michigan State Saturday. The Buckeyes are 11-1 this season when outrebounding their opponents and 3-13 when they give up more rebounds than the opposition. Ohio State also is 10-1 this season when leading at halftime.
In the last meeting between the two teams on Valentine’s Day 2013, Nebraska held Ohio State to its lowest point total in Jim Foster’s 11 years as coach of the Buckeyes in a 58-39 Husker win. Emily Cady had 10 points and 16 rebounds to lead NU in gaining a season sweep. Nebraska leads the all-time series with OSU 6-4, including a 62-53 victory in Columbus, Ohio on Jan. 31, 2013. Jordan Hooper led the Huskers with 28 points and five three-pointers in Nebraska’s win.
The Huskers have won four straight in the series, but OSU holds a 3-2 lead in the series in games played in Columbus. Nebraska last faced a Kevin McGuff-coached team in the 2008 NCAA Tournament in College Park, Md,m on my birthday! Kelsey Griffin scored 26 points in leading Nebraska to a first-round 61-58 win over McGuff’s Xavier Musketeers, champions of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. It was NU’s first NCAA Tournament win since 1998.
I cordially invite you to join Jeff Griesch and me for Nebraska Women’s Basketball on the Husker Sports Network. Our radio broadcast Thursday evening begins with the pre-game show at 5:45 p.m. (central) with the tip-off scheduled for 6 p.m. on the Husker Sports Network including KBBK (B107.3) in Lincoln, KFFF 93.3 in Omaha, KCOW 1400 in Alliance, KNEB 94.1 in Scottsbluff, KRGI 1430 in Grand Island, KHAQ 98.5 in North Platte and many others. All Husker Women’s Basketball broadcasts are also available for free worldwide on the internet at www.huskers.com. I hope you can join us.
There are a number of ways to get enhanced information about our broadcast and Husker Women’s Basketball via social media. You can learn more about the team on the Nebraska Women’s Basketball Facebook page or follow the team on their official Twitter page @huskerswbb. I also invite you to friend me on Facebook (Matt Coatney) or follow me on Twitter @coatman1.
Go Big Red!