Ohio State Unveils 2015-16 Non-Conference Schedule
WBK: Ohio State Unveils 2015-16 Non-Conference Schedule
Buckeyes will face all four teams from last year's Final Four
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The saying goes, "To be the best, you have to beat the best." The Ohio State women's basketball team will certainly find out where they stand this season as they will embark on one of the country's toughest schedules in 2015-16.
The Buckeyes will be tested right out of the gate as it opens the season at South Carolina on Nov. 13 and then will host two-time defending National Champion Connecticut in its home opener on Monday, Nov. 16. Both teams spent all of last season ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country.
"Our goal is to challenge our team early and often and I think we put together one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in the country," said Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff. "Playing all four of the final four teams from last year should give us a tremendous test and allow our team to be pushed and challenged and grow in a manner that will put us in a position to compete with the best teams in the country."
Ohio State is 2-1 all-time against South Carolina but the two teams have not met since the 1980-81 season. This will be just the third meeting with Connecticut and all three games will have occured since 2010. The Huskies won a pair of neutral site battles in 2010 and 2013.
Add in the home-and-home series with Maryland during the B1G season and the previously announced Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup with Notre Dame, and the Buckeyes will be facing all four of the teams that competed in last year's Final Four.
In all, the Buckeyes will face 14 teams that went to the postseason last year, including 12 NCAA Tournament teams.
After the opening two games, Ohio State will remain at home to host Belmont (Nov. 19) and Wagner (No. 22) in non-conference action. Belmont was one of the most improved teams last season as it started the year just 4-13 before rallying to win 10 of its final 13 games. Wagner returns one of the top scorers in the country in Jasmine Nwajei, who was second to Kelsey Mitchell in points per game at 24.8 last season as a sophomore.
Next will be a trip to Las Vegas, Nev., for the South Point Shootout over Thanksgiving weekend. The Buckeyes will take on NCAA participants Liberty on Nov. 27 and Texas A&M on Nov. 28. The tournament is being played at the beautiful South Point Casino and Spa which features a 4,000-seat arena.
The month of December will start with a trip to South Bend, Ind., for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge against Notre Dame. The Irish have played in the national championship game in four of the last five seasons and finished last year 36-3.
The game against Notre Dame will not only be a matchup of two of the country's marquee programs, it will also be McGuff's first game against one of his former teams. McGuff was on Muffet McGraw's staff at Notre Dame for six years from 1996 through 2002. Included in McGuff's time in South Bend was Notre Dame's first NCAA Championship run in 2001.
The Buckeyes then return to Ohio for a game at in-state rival Cincinnati on Sunday, Dec. 6. The teams last played a home-and-home series in 2012 and 2013 with each side winning on its home floor. The non-conference portion of the schedule will wrap-up inside the friendly confines of Value City Arena over the ensuing two weeks. A visit from MEAC foe North Carolina A&T on Dec. 13 will be followed by a matchup with the Ivy League Champion Princeton on Dec. 18. The Tigers made noise a year ago with a perfect 30-0 regular season and a trip to the NCAA Second Round.
The final non-conference game will be on Monday, Dec. 21 against Virginia. Last year, the Buckeyes opened the season with an 87-82 setback in Charlottesville which saw Ameryst Alston score 27 points and Kelsey Mitchell make her Buckeye debut with 26 points.
BIG TEN OPPONENTS
If the non-conference portion of the schedule wasn't enough of a grind, the 18-game Big Ten schedule will undoubtedly sharpen the Buckeyes for another NCAA Tournament run. Ohio State will face Illinois, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern and Rutgers twice this season, once at home and once on the road. Last year, the Buckeyes fell on the road to Maryland in the first Big Ten game of the season and then were nipped by the Terrapins in the Big Ten Tournament Championship in early March.
Ohio State will play the rest of the conference foes just once. Indiana, Nebraska, Purdue and Wisconsin will all make the trip to Columbus while the Buckeyes' only meetings with Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Penn State will be on the road. The Big Ten will announce its conference and broadcast schedule at a later date.
"We're also going to face a very difficult Big Ten slate and I think this year will be one of the most competitive Big Ten races in conference history," McGuff added. "The non-conference schedule will prepare us for what we'll face in the second half of the season. So overall, I'm excited for this schedule and to have a chance to compete for a Big Ten Championship."
GET YOUR FIRST LOOK
Ohio State will get the season started a bit earlier and fans can get their first look at the team on Friday, July 31. That practice, which is open to the public at the Schottenstein Center, will be one of 10 practices the Buckeyes will have leading into their trip to Brazil in August. The team will play three games against local teams in Brazil while on the trip which runs August 6-16.
Fans will be able to watch practice and hear insight on the season from coach McGuff, the staff and players. The open practice will take place at the Schottenstein Center with more details to follow.
2015-16 season tickets for new buyers are on sale now. For more information in regard to seat locations available and pricing, contact the Ohio State athletics ticket sales department by calling 1-800-GOBUCKS (select option 2). Fans will be directed to an account executive who can discuss seating options over the phone or schedule a time to tour the Jerome Schottenstein Center to pick out seats.
Fans interested in becoming a NEW season ticket holder for the 2015-16 season are invited to schedule an appointment with the ticket sales team or come down to the Schottenstein Center June 22nd-June 24th between 3-7 p.m. to view seating options available for Women's Basketball and Men's Basketball and Men's Ice Hockey season tickets. The Athletic Ticket Sales Team can be reached by calling 1-800-GoBucks (select option 2) or email AthleticSales@osu.edu.
The Buckeyes return all five starters from a team that won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 2010. Kelsey Mitchell, who was the National Freshman of the Year and the Big Ten Co-Player of the Year, was the first freshman to ever lead the NCAA in scoring. She is joined in the backcourt by two-time first team All-Big Ten honoree Ameryst Alston who starts her senior campaign 13th in school-history with 1,561 career points. Senior Cait Craft and sophomore Asia Doss also started all 35 games last season.
In the post, Alexa Hart worked her way into one of the better centers in the country last year and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. She led the team with 13 double-doubles last year and blocked a school-record 129 shots. Shayla Cooper became eligible midway through the season and made an immediate impact. She played in 23 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.8 rebounds with six double-doubles. Center Lisa Blair had a breakout-season sophomore season and brings a new sense of confidence with her into the 15-16 campaign.
The Buckeyes will also get a boost with the return of Kianna Holland, Makayla Waterman and Chelsea Mitchell who all missed last season with knee injuries. Kalpana Beach played in just seven games in 2014-15 while battling injuries but she is looking forward to an injury-free season in 15-16 as well. The addition of freshman Kaylan Pugh and Theresa Ekhelar will also add depth to a team that lacked depth a year ago.
2015-16 Non-Conference Schedule
Nov. 1, 2015 -- vs. Ursuline College (Exhibition)
Nov. 13, 2015 -- at South Carolina
Nov. 16, 2015 -- vs. Connecticut
Nov. 19, 2015 -- vs. Belmont
Nov. 22, 2015 -- vs. Wagner
Nov. 27, 2015 -- vs. Liberty @ South Point Shootout, Las Vegas, Nev.
Nov. 28, 2015 -- vs. Texas A&M @ South Point Shootout, Las Vegas, Nev.
Dec. 2, 2015 -- at Notre Dame (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
Dec. 6, 2015 -- at Cincinnati
Dec. 13, 2015 -- vs. North Carolina A&T
Dec. 18, 2015 -- vs. Princeton
Dec. 21, 2015 -- vs. Virginia