Ohio State women's basketball players, competing Monday for the first time since Dec. 10, said they are focusing on making the best of this season despite the program's postseason ban, which was self-imposed late last month because of potential NCAA infractions.
"It just motivates us a little bit more," Ohio State sophomore guard Jacy Sheldon said after the No. 16 Buckeyes' 82-69 victory over Penn State. "You always want to win, but you want to win a little extra when you hear that news. We did that today. I think we'll continue to play like that throughout Big Ten play for the rest of the season."
Fellow sophomore Madison Greene, who led Ohio State with 24 points and 10 rebounds, said, "We were definitely upset by the news. But like Jacy said, we're just going to use that as motivation to work harder and prove that we deserve to be in the postseason. We can't [do] that this year, so hopefully we can just keep working and do it next year."
Ohio State started 4-0 but went on a COVID-19-related pause after a 104-65 victory over Miami of Ohio on Dec. 10. The Buckeyes' Dec. 15 game against St. Mary's was canceled, and Big Ten games against Iowa, Maryland and Michigan State that were scheduled for the remainder of December were postponed.
The Columbus Dispatch reported on Dec. 22 that Ohio State women's basketball, women's golf and fencing were enacting self-imposed postseason bans because of NCAA investigations into all three programs. Ohio State did not announce the bans; they were discovered by the Dispatch through an open-records request.
The women's basketball investigation centers on former assistant coach Patrick Klein, who resigned in 2019 after acknowledging he had not adhered strictly to NCAA rules and had potentially inappropriate communication with some student-athletes, the Dispatch reported.
Ohio State, the national runner-up in 1993, has been to 14 of the past 17 NCAA women's tournaments and 25 of the 38 that have been held. The Buckeyes have made the final of the Big Ten women's tournament 10 times, winning five, since that event began in 1995. Ohio State most recently won the Big Ten tournament in 2018, and lost in the championship game to Maryland last season.
"It's tough; that was a real blow to the kids," Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said of the postseason ban. "And it's even tougher given the fact that we're coming off a season last year where I thought we were playing really well at the end of the year and didn't get to go to the [NCAA tournament] because of COVID.
"But this team has great competitive character. They really care for each other, and I think the biggest thing is that they want to play for each other."