SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — Kevin McGuff is slowly starting to rebuild Ohio State back into a women’s basketball power.
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It’s going to be awhile before the first-year coach gets there.
Raven Ferguson scored all 14 of her points in the second half of the Buckeyes’ 70-49 loss to No. 1 Connecticut in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge on Sunday.
“We have a long way to go,” McGuff said. “But we’re starting to forge an identity. We’re light years from where we want to be. Today was a great opportunity to measure ourselves against the best.”
The Buckeyes (6-3) were able to slow UConn by grinding out each possession and playing tough defense. Ohio State held UConn to its lowest point total of the season and made the Huskies work for many of their points.
“They’re so good you have to give up something,” McGuff said. “We just got beat by the best team in the country. There’s no moral victories, but we don’t come into the game focused on the score. We focused on how hard we want to play and do the things that make us a good team. For the most part we did that.”
It doesn’t get easier for Ohio State, which will play at Maryland on Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Then the Buckeyes host Gonzaga.
This was only the second meeting between the schools. UConn beat Ohio State in 2010 at Madison Square Garden for its 88th straight victory to tie the NCAA record for most consecutive victories, held by the UCLA men’s team. UConn went on to break it.
The victory on Sunday was UConn’s 52nd straight in regular-season tournaments.
Bria Hartley scored 17 points and Stefanie Dolson added 15 to lead UConn (9-0) to the win.
“We talk about it a little bit,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “When they’re giving away trophies we want to be in line to get them.”
Auriemma recalled the last regular-season tournament loss — to Vanderbilt in 1992. He didn’t finish that game.
“I got thrown out of that game and that’s why we lost it,” he said laughing. “We were losing by a lot and that’s why I got thrown out.”
UConn was a bit rusty at the start against Ohio State. It’s no surprise with the Huskies coming off a much-needed seven-day break, having played four games in five days. They had eight games in the first 15 days of the season. UConn next plays Thursday against UC Davis and then is off for exams until visiting No. 2 Duke on Dec. 17.
“It’s tough. You get your body and mind used to one schedule and then it will change again,” said Dolson, who added 13 rebounds. “Every team goes through that at some time and we have to make sure our mindset is always right.”
Auriemma said it was even tougher last week for the Huskies, who are down to seven scholarship players because of injuries to Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Morgan Tuck. With the school on break for the holiday, the male practice players weren’t around.
“Practice becomes less than productive at times,” he said. “There’s instances when you want a lot of games and not a lot of practice as much. We start school (Monday) and are back on our routine. There’s nothing you can do about it. The schedule is what it is and we go through it every year.”
Connecticut got off to a slow start and led 13-10 midway through the first half before finally getting going offensively. Saniya Chong started a 22-7 run to close the half with a 3-pointer. Hartley, Dolson and Brianna Banks took over from there, scoring the other 19 points during the burst. The Huskies led 35-17 at the break.
Ohio State hung around in the second half and trailed 50-36 with 8:11 left, but got no closer.