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Published: Sunday, 3/18/2012

Kynard happy to be home

Former Start star contributing for OSU as a backup guard

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Maleeka Kynard. Maleeka Kynard.
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BOWLING GREEN -- While some of the Ohio State women's basketball team may not be happy to be playing at the Stroh Center this weekend as an eighth seed, Maleeka Kynard is glad to be near home.

Kynard, who led Start to the Division I state semifinals each of her last two years, is a freshman guard for the Buckeyes.

"It's exciting to be here because I have a lot of family here to support me," Kynard said Saturday as OSU prepared for its first-round game in the NCAA women's tournament against Florida. "It's fun to be back home."

Kynard has played in 24 games for the Buckeyes, averaging 1.8 points per game in 7.1 minutes of action.

The 5-7 guard admitted that the move from high school to college basketball has been a big adjustment.

"The workouts are harder, and the practices have more intensity," Kynard said. "I'm playing against people who are just as fast, or faster, and people who are stronger.

"And these are girls who love the game. These aren't players who are just playing, you're playing against people who love the game and want to win.

"I feel I'm adjusting to it, though."

Kynard's practices are especially tough since she often goes head-to-head with Samantha Prahalis, the Big Ten player of the year and a potential All-American.

"It benefits me to go up against her in practice," Kynard said. "She kicks my butt, but she also is making me better.

"I won't play against another guard who is as creative as she is, and she'll make me a better player."

Ohio State coach Jim Foster said Kynard is making the adjustment to the college game.

"She is a very hard-nosed, tenacious defender," Foster said. "She has to realize, as every freshman in the country has to realize, they are sort of bait for officials when they walk into the game and are an aggressive player. You've got to learn how to play at this level and [learn] what you can do and what you can't do.

"You've spent your whole career being the Kynard that everyone knows and now you are the Kynard that no one knows."

WELCOME BACK: Sunday's games will not be the first NCAA tournament contests Bowling Green has hosted.

Anderson Arena hosted three tournament games involving the Falcons: a win over Cincinnati in 1989 and losses to Florida in 1993 and Creighton in '94.

Saturday was the 18th anniversary of the contest between BG and the Gators, and current Florida coach Amanda Butler saw action in her team's 69-67 victory. Butler, who broke her hand in practice before the game, played 13 minutes and finished with three points and a team-high four assists in that contest at Anderson Arena.

"[The Stroh Center] is a little different than the venue that I remember a few years back," Butler said. "That was our first NCAA appearance, and we were able to squeak out a win versus a very good Bowling Green team.

"It is neat to get back here. I think this time of the year you want to play in a place where girls and women's basketball is important, and I think Bowling Green is one of those places, and that makes this fun."

One of Bowling Green's players in that Florida contest, Tangy Williams, is now the director of basketball operations at Ohio State. Williams had four points and five rebounds in 13 minutes off the BG bench.

THREE-DOT DATA: UC Santa Barbara was 8-13 in early February before winning nine of their last 11 contests. … When Ohio State's Prahalis was named Big Ten player of the year, it marked the eighth consecutive season an OSU player has won the award. Jessica Davenport claimed that honor from 2005-07, and Jantel Lavender earned it for four seasons before Prahalis. … While Florida has 12 losses this season, 10 of those setbacks have been by six points or less. Eight of those close losses came against SEC opponents. … Baylor University's president is Kenneth Starr, who is best-known as the investigator of the Whitewater scandal involving then-President Bill Clinton.



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