At 6-foot-6, sophomore Lisa Blair is the tallest player on the Ohio State women’s team. Even with the roster pared to seven players by injuries, she also has been the most lightly used by coach Kevin McGuff.
Her status changed over the past two games. Blair was on the court for 12 minutes in each of the victories over Winthrop and Arkansas State.
Both were season highs.
She earned the minutes in practice, McGuff said, which also coincided with a change in his thinking.
“In her defense, she was the one person on this team that she might play 15 minutes or 20 or she might play none. That’s hard on a kid,” McGuff said. “So I’ve told her I’m going to commit to consistently playing her — maybe it’s two minutes or maybe it’s 10 or 15 — but she’s going to play.”
She’s now ready for any opportunity.
“I guess it comes from me proving that I can have an impact,” she said. “It starts in practice. I’d say my levels of concentration and energy have gotten better.”
Blair blocked two shots and grabbed three rebounds against Arkansas State. She scored just two points, but her size bothered the Red Wolves inside.
“We have a team full of people who can score,” she said. “So that’s like something I don’t need to contribute. I mean if I do, that’s great, but I just need to be a big presence.”
The Buckeyes played their best combination of offense and defense of the season in the victory. McGuff felt that possibility building in practice.
— Lisa Blair
“We’ve been a little more attentive defensively in practice,” he said. “I know it’s simple, but the biggest message to our team is that will carry over into games. So we’ve been focusing on that and trying to keep it going.”
The Buckeyes limited Arkansas State to 16 points in the first half and 23.3 percent shooting from the field.
“Lisa’s size gives us a different element,” McGuff said. “You saw that she altered some shots and got some rebounds. She can do that. Sometimes matchups can put her in a tough situation with the [up-tempo] style that we play. But she had a positive effect on the game.”
The Buckeyes are growing, Blair said.
“Each day that goes on, I think we’re getting better and better,” she said. “We’ve had some really good practices with our defense, and it’s transferring into games.”