Oct. 21, 2005

Columbus, Ohio – With 80 percent of its scoring and nearly 90 percent of its rebound production returning, head coach Jim Foster and the 2005-06 Ohio State women’s basketball team will aspire to build upon its Big Ten co-championship and first 30-win season in program history from a year ago.

Jessica Davenport, the reigning conference player of the year and Wade trophy finalist, is back for her junior campaign with the Buckeyes after tying for the league lead with 19.3 points per game and pulling down 9.3 rebounds a contest. Davenport, who recorded 14 double-doubles last season en route to Associated Press and WBCA All-American honors, will benefit from added support on the block this year from senior transfer Debbie Merrill, who was an honorable mention WBCA All-American forward at Cincinnati in 2003. In three seasons with the Bearcats, Merrill averaged 16.0 points and 8.0 rebounds a contest.

Juniors Brandie Hoskins, a third-team all-league performer last season, and Stephanie Blanton each can play the wing positions. Hoskins led the Buckeyes in assists last year and was third on the squad in scoring. Hoskins stepped up her play even further at the end of the season, scoring in double figures in her last eight contests, including a career-best 23 points vs. Minnesota in the Big Ten tourney and 22 points in the Buckeyes’ second-round NCAA tournament win at Maryland. Like Hoskins, Blanton blossomed at the height at the season, starting all five postseason contests and tying a career-high with 12 points against Maryland. Tia Battle, a fifth-year senior, will provide depth and experience at the swing position as well.

The Buckeye backcourt features loads of experience. Seniors Ashley Allen, who has been granted a fifth season of eligibility, and Kim Wilburn will share the point guard duties. The tandem, which has combined to play in nearly 200 career games and boasts 130 starts, finished second and third in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio last season. Each brings something different to the floor. Allen is one of Ohio State’s top threats from beyond the 3-point arc, while Wilburn is one of the best guards in the conference at penetrating opposing defenses. Wilburn also ranks in the third all-time at Ohio State in career steals. Candace Dark, another senior, brings an additional 67 games of experience and will see significant action in the backcourt as well.

Although the Buckeyes boast a wealth of experience with 11 letterwinners and four of five starters returning, youth also will play a decisive role in Ohio State’s success in 2005-06. Marscilla Packer, a sophomore guard, will be looked upon to make up for the loss of outside sharp-shooter Caity Matter, who graduated as Ohio State’s all-time leader in 3-point makes and percentage. In addition, sophomores Alice Jamen and Tamarah Riley will play alongside Davenport and Merrill in the paint, while freshman forward Star Allen will look to make an impact in the lane as well. Allen was a two-time all-Ohio honoree at Columbus Independence High School.

A pair of seniors will share the point guard duties for the Buckeyes in 2005-06. With nearly 200 combined career games, Ashley Allen and Kim Wilburn supply countless minutes of experience as Ohio State floor generals. Wilburn, who ranks third all-time at Ohio State in career steals, has started 63 games as a Buckeye and recorded 80-plus steals in all three of her seasons with the Scarlet and Gray. Offensively, Wilburn ranks fifth all-time with 431 assists.

Last season, A. Allen made a smooth transition from her previous role as a shooting guard to the point and started 31 of 35 contests. She turned in career-highs in assists (110) and rebounds (103). In 95 career games and 67 starts, Allen ranks seventh all-time in 3-point field goals (96) and 3-point FG percentage at .345.

In 2004-05, Ohio State successfully defended its title as best-shooting team in the land. The Buckeyes finished the season connecting on a .508 clip (966-1,901) from the field to place No. 1 in the country. In 2003-04, the Buckeyes converted 51 percent (800-1570) of their field goals to rank No. 1 nationally.

With both Jessica Davenport and Brandie Hoskins, who finished first and second in the Big Ten in field goal percentage, returning, Ohio State again has a chance at leading the nation in shooting percentage. Hoskins finished the season at a .596 clip and was trailed closely by Davenport and her .587 percentage.

In the last five seasons, head coach Jim Foster’s teams have posted the top field goal percentage in the nation four times. In his final two seasons at Vanderbilt, Foster’s teams shot .521 in 2001-02 and .545 in 2000-01.

Ohio State has 697 wins in 40 seasons of women’s basketball at the university. The Buckeyes begin their fifth decade just three wins shy of becoming the 11th program in the NCAA to register 700 wins.

Individually, several Buckeyes head into the season staring down numerous career standards at Ohio State. Jessica Davenport has led the Big Ten in block shots in each of her first two seasons, setting a Buckeye record last season with 116 swats. She has 196 for her career and needs just four more to become just the second Ohio State player to reach 200 career blocks. Davenport trails only former Buckeye Mary Sivak (1979-82) in that category. Sivak ended her career with 241 blocks. With 1,066 points through two seasons, Davenport is on pace to become Ohio State’s 11th player to score 1,500 points and has a shot at joining two-time All-American Katie Smith as the only Buckeye to score 2,000-plus points in her career.

Seniors Ashley Allen and Kim Wilburn also can be found among the all-time leaders at Ohio State. Wilburn has a chance at becoming just the third Buckeye to record 500 assists and 300 steals for her career, joining Yvette Angel and Jamie Lewis in that distinction. Coming into her senior campaign, Wilburn has 431 assists and 268 swipes.

A. Allen boasts 96 career makes from beyond the 3-point arc as she nears becoming the seventh player in Ohio State history to bury 100 career treys.

The 2004-05 Ohio State team set eight school records en route to its first Big Ten championship and appearance in the “Sweet 16” of the NCAA tournament since 1993. The Buckeyes set team single-season records in the following categories:

2004-05 No. Rank Prev.(Yr.) Wins 30 1 28 (2x) Games 35 1 34 (2x) 3-pt. FG 191 1 172 (`02-03) 3-pt. FG Att. 490 1 484 (`01-02) 3-pt. FG Perc. .390 1 .388 (`02-03) FT Perc. .758 1 .738 (`88-89) Assists 638 1 600 (`84-85) Blocks 165 1 145 (`03-04) Crowd 17,525 1 vs. Penn State (2/27/05)

A collegiate veteran and a rookie make up the two new additions to the Buckeye squad in 2004-05. Debbie Merrill, who sat out last season to accommodate the NCAA one-year residency mandate, started all but two of 88 games at Cincinnati and comes to Ohio State with career averages of 16.0 points and 8.0 rebounds a game. In 2002-03, she was named honorable mention on the Kodak/WBCA All-America team after pouring in 18.0 points a game and grabbing 8.5 rebounds per outing. Merrill, a senior in 2005-06, also was a two-time All-Conference USA player at UC.

Star Allen is the lone freshman on the 2005-06 roster and hails from Columbus Independence High School, which also produced Buckeye All-American Jessica Davenport. She comes to Ohio State after upping her scoring average to 20.9 per game as senior and grabbing 15.6 rebounds a game. For her career, S. Allen totaled 1,406 points and 946 rebounds and was selected 2005 Columbus Dispatch Agonis Co-Player of the Year. As a junior, she averaged 18.8 points, 14.1 rebounds. She teamed with Davenport her sophomore and freshman seasons and was named first- and second-team all-city both years.

This past summer, three Ohio State juniors had the privilege of playing overseas. In July, Stephanie Blanton helped the 2005 Big Ten Foreign Tour team complete an undefeated five-game schedule against teams from Belgium and Luxembourg. For the five games, Blanton contributed seven points per contest and shot 55 percent from the field.

In August, two Buckeyes helped represent USA Basketball in the 2005 World University Games in Izmir, Turkey. Both Jessica Davenport and Brandie Hoskins played a part in lifting Team USA to the gold medal as the U.S. squad finished 7-0 for the tournament.

Davenport finished among the team leaders in numerous categories. She ranked third on the team in scoring at 10.7 points per game, rebounds at 4.6 per contest and field goal percentage, posting a .617 clip (29-47). Hoskins came off the bench in all but one game and contributed nearly seven points a game.

The slate for the upcoming season features 10 NCAA tournament qualifiers from a year ago, including seven home games against 2005 NCAA tournament teams.

The non-conference home docket is highlighted by a contest against the LSU Lady Tigers (Dec. 15), a national semifinalist team from last season that features consensus 2005 Player of the Year Seimone Augustus. Ohio State opens league play at home Dec. 29 vs. Penn State and plays its final two regular season home games against national runner-up Michigan State (Feb. 20) and NCAA qualifier Purdue (Feb. 23). The Buckeyes also play host to a Big Ten-Big XII Challenge game against Oklahoma Jan. 9. The LSU, Oklahoma and Michigan State contests will be televised nationally. LSU will be aired on ESPN and the Oklahoma and Michigan State games will be broadcast by ESPN2.

Ohio State tips off the season Nov. 21 in Value City Arena as the team welcomes Eastern Kentucky, the first of seven home dates with NCAA tournament teams. The Buckeyes and Colonels get the season underway at 7 p.m. Although it switches buildings, Ohio State remains at home for the Buckeye Classic during the Thanksgiving weekend Nov. 26-27 at St. John Arena. Eastern Washington and Western Illinois face off in the opener before Ohio State takes the floor Saturday to attempt to win its third consecutive Buckeye Classic crown against Nicholls State. The winners from the first day meet in the championship game Sunday after the losing teams play to decide third place.

After the Buckeyes close the season-opening homestand with a return trip back to VCA Nov. 30 against Dayton, they start the December schedule with the longest road trip of the season. First, Ohio State treks east for a game at Boston College (Dec. 3) before traveling to the left coast for a date at Southern Cal (Dec. 11). Both the Eagles and Trojans made the NCAA tournament in 2005. USC tied for second in the PAC-10, while BC tied for fourth place in the competitive Big East.

Four days later, the Buckeyes return to Columbus for another challenge as they welcome the Lady Tigers, who were ranked No. 1 nationally for a better portion of the 2004-05 regular season. LSU is led by 2005 National Coach of the Year Pokey Chapman. The Lady Tigers are coming off a Southeastern Conference championship and a second-consecutive appearance in the Final Four.

After the LSU game, the Buckeyes stay at home for the remainder of the month with mid-week games against Sacred Heart (Dec. 20) and 2005 Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference champ Canisius (Dec. 22). Penn State comes to Columbus to open league play on Dec. 29. The Buckeyes defeated PSU, 69-58, to claim a share of the 2005 Big Ten crown in the regular-season finale last year at VCA in front of a Big Ten record 17,525 fans. This season, the Buckeyes must close out the regular season in State College, Pa., Feb. 26.

Conference action gets into full swing on New Year’s Day as the Buckeyes travel to West Lafayette, Ind., to play Purdue in the first leg of a two-game road trip that ends Jan. 5 at Northwestern. Comcast SportsNet Chicago will televise the holiday contest between the Buckeyes and Boilermakers. Purdue makes its return to trip Columbus Feb. 23. The Buckeyes and Wildcats play just once in 2005-06.

Another Monday night home date against Oklahoma briefly breaks up the league schedule Jan. 9. As part of the 2006 Big Ten-Big XII Challenge and ESPN2’s Monday Night Women’s Hoops series, the Buckeyes and Sooners hook up at 7 p.m. in VCA. OU returns its leading scorer in Leah Rush, who averaged 15.5 points per game last season. After the Big Ten-Big XII Challenge, the Buckeyes head to Iowa City Jan. 12 for the first of seven consecutive in-conference match ups. Next, the Buckeyes come back home for two games against Michigan (Jan. 15) and Indiana (Jan. 19). Iowa’s trip to Columbus is set for Feb. 12, while the Buckeyes play Indiana again in Bloomington, Ind., Feb. 5 and travel north to Michigan Feb. 10.

The much-anticipated road trip to East Lansing, Mich., to face the 2005 national runner-up is scheduled for Jan. 22 and also will be carried by CSN Chicago at 1 p.m. The Spartans advanced to the NCAA championship game last season before falling to Baylor, 84-62. Michigan State returns its top two scorers from the national runner-up squad in seniors Liz Shimek and Lindsay Bowen, a preseason candidate for the John R. Wooden Award. Bowen and Shimek lead the Spartans to Columbus Feb. 20 for another showcase match up on ESPN2’s Monday Night Women’s Hoops.

Ohio State faces league foes Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota just once during the regular season. The Buckeyes welcome the Badgers and Illini in the same week, playing host to Wisconsin Jan. 26 and Illinois Jan. 29. Ohio State travels to Minnesota Feb. 16. The Buckeyes and Golden Gophers split a pair of contests last year.