OSU Women Starting At Home

Ohio State kicks off the NCAA women's basketball tournament Saturday afternoon playing host to No. 13 seed Central Florida. The fourth-seeded Buckeyes figure to enjoy a considerable height advantage as they take on the champions of the Conference USA tournament at St. John Arena.

Fans at St. John Arena on Saturday for an NCAA tournament first-round game between Ohio State and Central Florida should not have much trouble figuring out which team represents the bigger school.

None of the 13th-seeded Knight starters are listed above 5-10, while the fourth-seeded Buckeyes have four starters listed that height or above, including 6-5 center Ashley Adams and 6-4 forward Jantel Lavender.

That diminutive starting lineup did not preclude UCF from reeling off 11 consecutive wins to end the season, including three games in the Conference USA tournament to claim the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

"They're a good solid basketball team and (head coach Joi Williams) has done a good job with them," Ohio State head coach Jim Foster said.

The Buckeyes' mentor looks for his team's first-round opponent to try to play in the open floor, and that suits him just fin.

"They will get after it on defense and like a lot of teams these days they like to push the ball a little bit," he said. "We don't mind running."

His players said they are fine with whatever style of play they see in the tournament, a confidence borne of playing a variety of different teams in the regular season.

"We had a taste of everything we could potentially face," Lavender said. "We've seen big-bodied teams that could shoot from every position, teams that are very physical all the way around through the whole game and teams that have great backcourts that really push the ball and we have to stop before they get in the lane and are really effective. I think our guards and post players have really had a full resume of different types of players we've faced this year that will have us ready for the tournament."

After a season filled with more ups and downs than they are used to, the Buckeyes enter the season riding the confident high of a squad that has won nine in a row, but they will face a challenge to maintain that momentum through nearly two full weeks off as well as the stress of finals week.

They also find themselves saddled with the reputation of a team that consistently underachieves in the tournament, although no one can say that is a tag they have not earned. A lower-seeded team has knocked Ohio State out of the tournament six of Foster's eight years in Columbus, a figure that includes losses to a double-digit seed in the first round in 2007 and '08.

"I definitely think coming from behind is a key for us being successful this year," Lavender said of a squad that was at one time 4-6 in Big Ten play but finished 10-6. "I think we've gotten a little complacent in past years when we won the regular season outright and the Big Ten tournament, but because we've had this momentum and we know how it feels to have that sense of urgency to play hard like everything is on the line it important because we know what we have to do and that's how we're going to play from here on out."

There are more positive historical aspects for the Buckeyes to point to this weekend, though.

The last time they played the first two rounds in Columbus they picked up a pair of wins to advance to the Sweet 16. That was two years ago and at a different venue (Nationwide Arena downtown), but they hope for some similar success with another strong push from a friendly crowd at venerable SJA.

"It's great to be able to have our fans come out and watch us play because they support us so much," Lavender added. "It's just nice to be able to play a couple more games here in Columbus."

Ohio State is 9-2 all-time in NCAA tournament games played in Columbus, including 7-2 at St. John Arena, their home from 1974-98.

"You can always hear the crowd at St. John," sophomore guard Tayler Hill said. "I like the small feeling of St. John."

The Buckeyes and Knights are scheduled to tip off around 1:30 p.m. on ESPN2, following a game between No. 5 Georgia Tech and No. 12 Bowling Green that starts at 11:20.

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