Late-season inconsistency dropped Ohio State to a lower seed than expected in the NCAA tournament, but the 16th-ranked Buckeyes are hoping to use what they're calling "disrespect" as additional motivation.
Eighth-seeded Ohio State faces off with No. 9 seed Florida on Sunday in Bowling Green, Ohio.The Buckeyes (25-6) won their first 15 games and 20 of 21, but settled for a four-way tie for second place in the Big Ten after splitting their final eight regular-season games. They lost to Nebraska in the conference tournament semifinals."At this point it doesn't really matter," guard Samantha Prahalis said of the seeding, which may have the Buckeyes facing undefeated No. 1 Baylor in the second round. "Those were the cards we were dealt. I mean, it was disrespectful but we are here."Ohio State will have to put that inconsistency behind it, and with two of the top scorers in the nation, the Buckeyes feel they can. They are led by Tayler Hill, who is averaging 20.3 points and shooting 41.6 percent from 3-point range, and Prahalis, the Big Ten player of the year, who is averaging 20.1 points and 6.4 assists.There are 16 players in women's Division I averaging at least 20.0 points. Ohio State is the only team with two of them.Prahalis needs two more assists to become the second Division I player to reach 2,000 points and 900 assists."She is obviously a great player, one of the best point guards in the country," Florida guard Jordan Jones said. "I've been telling people she plays a little bit, maybe like an 'And 1' player -- tries to embarrass you."The Buckeyes averaged 75.1 points for the season, but 58.7 in their last three games. They committed 17.3 turnovers per game in those contests and shot 19.6 percent from 3-point range.Hill averaged 15.4 points and shot 32.4 percent overall her last five games, going 7 of 28 from beyond the arc, but said the team is ready."I think we're ready to play," Hill said. "We've made adjustments and the last couple of weeks in practice have been more intense."The Buckeyes lost to Tennessee in the regional semifinals last season. They haven't lost in the first round since 2008.While Ohio State is making its 10th consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, Florida is making its first since 2009.The Gators (19-12) are 2-7 against ranked teams this season, but 10 of their overall losses were by six points or fewer.Florida is led by junior forward Jennifer George, who averages 13.0 points and 9.0 rebounds. Jones, meanwhile, puts up 11.6 points per game.Despite being underdogs, the Gators think their defensive pressure will be unlike anything Ohio State has seen. Florida allowed 60.1 points on 37.9 percent shooting this season and was second in the SEC in rebounding with 42.5 per game."We want to make it a long 40 minutes for them," Jones said. "There's not going to be anything easy ... I don't think the Big Ten in general plays that kind of defense, so we're excited about giving them that challenge."This is the first meeting between the programs.