Georgia Tech Press To Test OSU Women

Ohio State tries to schedule as many different looks as it can every season to prepare for all possible tournament matchups, but the fourth-seeded Buckeyes will see something new from fifth-seeded Georgia Tech on Monday night: a full-time, fullcourt press.

Georgia Tech head coach MaChelle Joseph sounded plenty confident when assessing her team's plans for Ohio State when the squads face off in the second round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament tonight in Columbus.

The mentor of the fifth-seeded Yellow Jackets cited her team's experiences with some of the nation's top programs this season as evidence it will be ready when the ball goes in the air at 7:20 p.m. at St. John Arena (ESPN2).

"We're looking at who we are and what we represent. We're going to play Georgia Tech basketball like we always have," Joseph said Sunday. "When we played against Connecticut, people said what are you going to do? I said we're going to play Georgia Tech basketball. We outrebounded Tennessee, Connecticut, Maryland and North Carolina. We're going to welcome that challenge tomorrow."

What the 24-10 Yellow Jackets, who are 4-9 in games against ranked teams, are and represent is pressure basketball. Ranked 24th in the Associated Press poll entering the tournament, they play full-court basketball for 40 minutes hoping to take teams out of their comfort zone. Georgia Tech employs a variety of presses, some designed to turn teams over and others designed to speed or slow the tempo.

They average 21.9 turnovers forced per game and have held teams to 56.5 points per game.

Despite liking to push the ball when possible, Ohio State entered the tournament sixth in the country with 13.7 turnovers per game.

The Buckeyes admitted to not having seen a team as committed to pressing full time as Georgia Tech, but they anticipate being ready.

"When a team decides to use 94 feet of the floor, it's how much of the floor you choose to attack with and where you choose to attack that determines your success," OSU head coach Jim Foster said. "So when they switch screens or trap screens, it's what you do when trapped. It's what you do when the switches take place."

He has plenty of options with which to attack, beginning with primary ball handlers Samantha Prahalis and Tayler Hill. Both can finish in transition or find spot-up shooter Brittany Johnson or star post player Jantel Lavender, one of the nation's best at finishing on the break.

Prahalis, the Big Ten's leader in assists, is one of the most creative players in college basketball and said she looks forward to getting a chance to counter the Tech press.

"I think when the ball comes back to me I can attack and look for Jan or another post player," she said. "I think a lot of things will be open."

Although the 23-9 Buckeyes had more ups and downs than they expected this season, they are no stranger to tough competition, either.

They played nine games against ranked opponents and won seven, including three against Big Ten regular season champion Michigan State.

While the Buckeyes have not faced a full-time pressing team, Foster wondered if the Yellow Jackets have seen an open-court player like Prahalis.

"Their goal is to keep you in the box," he said. "It's a lot more difficult to box in a rabbit. I mean, she's going to have to adjust, but they're going to have to make some adjustments to Sammy also. So it's a chess game. Not all the adjustments have to be hers. I don't know if they've seen somebody that once she turns the corner and gets going, she's pretty creative in the open floor. It's not like we don't like to see pressure.

"There's nothing I like better than Sammy coming down the floor with numbers."

Ohio State will look to pick up its first NCAA tournament win over an ACC team since a 75-65 defeat of Maryland in the second round in 2005 when the Buckeyes were seeded No. 2 and the Terrapins were No. 7.

Overall, the Buckeyes are 3-3 against ACC teams in the tournament, including a 79-69 second-round loss as a No. 1 seed to No. 8 Boston College in 2006 and a 60-49 drubbing from No. 11 Florida State in the first round in 2008 when the Buckeyes were seeded sixth in their region.

The winner of the matchup between the Buckeyes and Yellow Jackets earns a trip to Dayton next weekend and a likely meeting with No. 1 seed Tennessee.

Ohio State hopes playing in front of friendly fans in Columbus will help them earn just their second Sweet 16 appearance in six seasons. The last time they won two games in the NCAA tournament also came in their home city, although those games in 2009 were played downtown at Nationwide Arena.

Although Foster was sure to stress that playing at St. John Arena is not the same as playing across the Olentangy River at Value City Arena, the Buckeyes' normal home floor, Joseph said her team is up to the challenge of dealing with what will surely be a pro-OSU crowd.

"We're going to play hard," Joseph said. "We're going to play the way we play. We're going to lay it out there. Risk it all to have it all. That's what you do in the NCAA tournament. You're playing for keeps. Hopefully we'll give the Ohio State fans and Ohio State a great game and we'll see what happens."

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