West Virginia-Ohio St. Preview
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) After beating a lesser opponent in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, the Ohio State women know they'll get a faster and grittier game from West Virginia on Sunday.
The Buckeyes (25-7), the No. 3 seed in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, regional, face the No. 6 Mountaineers (25-9) in the second round with a Sweet 16 bid at stake. The winner will play next Friday against either Arizona State or Tennessee.
The question on everyone's mind is whether Ohio State guard Ameryst Alston, the team's second leading scorer, will play after spraining her right wrist in a Big Ten Tournament game. Alston sat on the bench with a brace on her wrist Friday, and after the game had it heavily swaddled in plastic wrap.
Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said Saturday that ''it's close'' whether Alston will be ready to play.
''I'm optimistic, but we really won't know for sure until (Sunday),'' he said.
West Virginia coach Mike Carey, though, fully expects to see her in the game.
''There's no doubt in my mind,'' he said. ''That's good, though. If you're going to play a team, you want them to have everybody.''
Even if Ohio State is without Alston's average 18.6 points, the Mountaineers still have to figure out how to contain guard Kelsey Mitchell, the nation's fourth leading scorer and a deadly 3-point shooter. She averaged 25.7 points per game this year, and led the team with 27 against Buffalo.
West Virginia will need another big game from Bria Holmes, who averaged 16.4 points and scored 26 Friday in the Mountaineers' first-round win over against Princeton.
''I feel like we can go against any team and play our game of basketball, especially when we're playing well and shooting well,'' Holmes said. ''I feel like we're going into this game very confident, and we just have to come out and really execute.''
Carey said controlling the boards will be the key.
''For us to be successful against them, we've got get into the paint,'' he said. ''Offensive boards, defensive boards, we've got to draw fouls, we've got to get to the foul line.''
The last time the two teams played, in December 2014, Ohio State walloped West Virginia 96-54. But Carey says he's not worried about that. With 11 newcomers this season, it's a different team than Ohio State saw then, he said. In fact, the Mountaineers are among the youngest teams in the country.
Ohio State: Is seeking its first Sweet 16 bid since 2011 and its eighth overall. The Buckeyes are making their 23rd appearance in the tournament. ... Ohio State was ranked as high as No. 5 nationally this year, but dropped to No. 9 after losing three out of its last four games before the NCAA Tournament. West Virginia finished with a No. 23 ranking. ... The Ohio State women's team will be playing Sunday in St. John Arena on campus, a stone's throw from Value City Arena, where the OSU men will be facing Florida in the NIT. Both games are set for a noon start.
West Virginia: Will be meeting Ohio State for the second time in the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes won the first matchup 73-67 in Columbus in the opening round of the 2004 tournament. The Mountaineers are 8-10 all-time in the tournament.