Madison Greene and Jacy Sheldon admitted having doubts about their roles on the Ohio State women's basketball team entering their freshman season, even though the makeup of the roster -- six freshmen in addition to three sophomores, one junior and a senior who did not play because of injury -- hinted they could see considerable playing time.

Forty-five combined starts, two Freshman of the Week awards and a Big Ten runner-up finish later, Greene and Sheldon head toward next season as linchpins for the Buckeyes.

Sheldon, a 5-foot-10 shooting guard from Dublin Coffman, started 24 of Ohio State's 33 games, averaging 9.6 points -- third on the team behind sophomore Dorka Juhasz's 13.2 and freshman Kierstan Bell's 10.9 -- with 44 3-pointers, second only to Bell's 56.

The 5-8 Greene, from Pickerington Central, started the final 21 games at point guard and averaged 7.7 points and 2.5 assists. She scored 20 points or more three times and led the Buckeyes in free throws attempted (96) and made (76).

"I wasn't really sure coming in what my role would be. I think a lot of us felt that way. For the most part, we just focused on making an impact," Sheldon said. "We accomplished a lot, especially with such a young group. We all found our place and I think that showed in the Big Ten tournament with some success there. We were all excited for the NCAA tournament, too."

Ohio State went 21-12 overall and 11-7 in the Big Ten, winning 10 of 12 games after Feb. 2 and reaching the conference final, where it lost to fourth-ranked Maryland 82-65. The Buckeyes likely would have received an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament, but the event was canceled four days before the tournament draw was to be held because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"I think we shocked a lot of people," Greene said. "It was good for all of us, individually and for the team."

Greene, a four-year starter at Central, helped lead the Tigers to a 101-13 record, the 2018 Division I state championship and a state runner-up finish the next year while scoring 1,423 career points. She signed with Penn State but decommitted in March 2019 after the firing of former coach Coquese Washington and signed with the Buckeyes, originally her second choice, two months later.

Sheldon scored 2,347 career points at Coffman, was ThisWeek's Super 12 captain in 2017 and 2018 and owns program records for points, steals, assists, 3-pointers and total field goals. The Shamrocks went 94-12 during her career, including a memorable 71-68 win over Greene's Tigers in a 2017 regional semifinal at Otterbein when Sheldon sank a 3-pointer in front of the Central bench as time expired.

Greene and Sheldon occasionally guarded each other that night and vividly remember the game, including the outcome.

"She was incredibly and deceptively fast," Greene said. "She was a great player overall, athletic and quick and she can drive. I knew coming in I'd have to be ready to play against her. She got the upper hand for sure, but it was fun playing against her."

Sheldon, who knew of Greene through AAU basketball, called Greene "an incredible defender."

"When I was guarding her, I remember she was hitting a ton of mid-range shots and a bunch of 3s," Sheldon said. "I felt like she could not miss."

Buckeyes coach Kevin McGuff lauded the overall progress of his freshman class.

"These young kids have played so many minutes in so many tough games that we've really grown up," McGuff said during the Big Ten tournament. "It's really great to see the maturity level and the ability to execute in a tight game."

Greene and Sheldon said their similar personalities translated onto the floor, a progression they hope continues next season. Both expect to play larger roles, especially after Bell -- a three-time Ms. Basketball winner from Canton McKinley -- transferred to Florida-Gulf Coast in April.

"I want to better my overall game, whether it's scoring, assists, rebounds, steals or whatever," Greene said. "I just want to continue to build my leadership role, whether by example or vocally. I have to be able to bring energy to the team since we're losing a couple key pieces who did that for us this year. My role will be the same, but it needs to be increased even more."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave