Big Ten play becoming big pain for struggling Buckeyes

The Big Ten has been a big pain for the Ohio State women’s basketball team this season.Aside from an early loss to Duke, the Buckeyes cruised through their nonconference schedule. However, they have struggled to find their game against teams who know their style of play.“There’s a difference between nonconference play and conference play,” coach Jim Foster said. “Nonconference play … you play a team twice, home and away, or you play them once. In terms of conference games, you can have a 10 to 12 game resume against your opponents depending on upper-classmen.”Before they began their conference schedule, the Buckeyes averaged 86.3 points per game. Against conference opponents, they have only averaged 70.1.That 16-point difference would be big for any team, but OSU is especially affected because they have allowed nearly the same amount of points per game.Foster has said that the team has the skills to win the close games and has won many of them over the last five years, but now people are noticing because “maybe we’re just in more of them.”Big Ten play has already handed OSU two losses and three games decided by three points or fewer in just ten conference games. In contrast, OSU had one loss and only one game decided by 10 points or less in nonconference play.The two losses from the Big Ten came against Purdue and Indiana in away games with both teams being unranked and struggling to maintain winning records.“Coaches refer to [a season] as three seasons,” Foster said, referring to out-of-conference schedule, conference schedule and the postseason. “A lot of times you’re just happy to get out of the conference season, let alone a conference that plays 18 games. There are some conferences around that play each other once.”Not only have the Buckeyes shot worse when playing a conference opponent, by about 10 percent, but they allow their opponents to shoot better from the floor as well.    OSU has a smaller advantage in rebounds as well — it is cut in half against conference opponents. The last week has been especially brutal for OSU as its two conference losses have occurred within this span. However, center Jantel Lavender doesn’t feel that the team is playing to its potential.“Close games are games that we make close games, because I think that we can beat teams by way more points than we’ve been beating them,” Lavender said. Foster believes this inconsistency in play is due to the youth of the team. The Buckeyes only have four seniors, none of which are starters, although three of the four see the court each game.With games still remaining against a surging Purdue team and a talented Michigan State team, both at home, the season could head in either direction for the Buckeyes depending on their resiliency.