OSU junior forward Shayla Cooper (32) during a game against Nebraska on Feb. 18 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorThe Ohio State women’s basketball team nearly limped into the NCAA tournament following a pair of excruciating end-of-the-season overtime losses, a semifinal exit from the Big Ten tournament and an untimely injury to senior guard Ameryst Alston.The odds of advancing deep in the NCAA tournament are usually unfavorable to teams that have problems pile up in March, but the Buckeyes have been resilient despite facing adversity. On Sunday afternoon at St. John Arena, the pressure was at its peak with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.Despite a back-and-forth struggle with sixth-seeded West Virginia, the Mountaineers eventually fell victim to their plethora of turnovers, with the 27th and final one pounding the nail in their coffin. “We just started to apply more pressure in our press to get them to turn the ball over,” said junior forward Shayla Cooper.With just under 30 seconds remaining and the Buckeyes leading by four points, sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell ran down the court to recover an errant Mountaineers pass. The heads-up play secured an 88-81 victory and Sweet 16 berth for the Buckeyes, as the layup finally put West Virginia out of reach. “These last two and a half weeks it’s been pressure, in capital words: PRESSURE,” Mitchell said. “I think when we applied that and we did that, I think it helped us.”Mitchell led the way for the Buckeyes by setting a school record for points in an NCAA tournament game with 45, aided by making 18 of her 22 attempts from the free-throw line. Cooper added 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.Senior guard Bria Holmes was the high scorer for the Mountaineers, netting 21 points.West Virginia stifled OSU from the moment the two teams tipped off. Almost immediately, one could tell the Buckeyes were going to be in for a more physical challenge than the one that No. 14 seed Buffalo imposed on Friday. On top of playing suffocating defense from the onset, the Mountaineers also had an apparent height advantage over the Buckeyes. However, after using the first quarter to settle into a comfortable pace and feel for the game, West Virginia’s defense became permeable for OSU.“I know our main focus, as coach (Kevin) McGuff put big emphasis on, is pushing the ball as fast as possible, getting the ball out as quick as possible,” Mitchell said.The Mountaineers did, though, continuously hold an advantage all afternoon on the boards. On top of outrebounding the Buckeyes by 11 boards on the day, West Virginia also did not allow an OSU offensive rebound over the entire first half.Thus, the Buckeyes did not have a sufficient amount of second-chance opportunities to counteract West Virginia’s efficient start. In addition to missing out on extra scoring opportunities, OSU had difficulties converting in the first place.“We love to run too, so it was an up-and-down game,” Holmes said. “I feel like it was anybody’s game from the tip.”One of the Buckeyes who started off cold was Mitchell, who missed her first three shots. However, she quickly became accustomed to the defensive tendencies of West Virginia. Mitchell broke the Mountaineers’ man-to-man defense with her fluid ball-handling skills and ability to open up previously closed lanes. “She handles the ball and has got speed and quickness like nobody else in college basketball,” McGuff said. “West Virginia is a really good defensive team, but I think we were able to get into transition and just play with enough spacing to give her opportunities to drive the ball, and it was really effective for us today.”The sophomore guard closed out the half as the game’s leading scorer, connecting on six of her eight successive attempts for 20 points.It was Mitchell’s aggressive efforts combined with characteristically sloppy play from the Mountaineers that fueled uncontested runs of nine and eight points during the second quarter. West Virginia averaged just over 16 turnovers per game during the regular season, but it had already racked up 14 heading into the second half. The Buckeyes ended up turning the 27 total turnovers into 40 points, which — on top of 3-point shooting and a surplus of trips to the foul line — was one of the differences in the outcome of Sunday’s second-round matchup.“The momentum of the game was up, so I felt we were just rushing things,” Holmes said. “We should’ve slowed some more and executed better.”It was runs like the Buckeyes put together in the second quarter on Sunday that buried Buffalo in the first round of the tournament two days prior. Eventually the Buckeyes did the same to West Virginia.“We tried to put a lot of pressure in the backcourt in our press, and I think it was really, really effective down the stretch,” Mitchell said.While OSU struggled at times to gain a solid footing during the first quarter, the back-to-back spurts that started off the second period tied the game, then subsequently established an eight-point lead. The Buckeyes maintained a shaky two-possession lead for most of the second half, but fatigue seemed to be setting in. Unlike Friday’s contest, the Buckeyes did not dig as deep into the bench despite Alston returning to the lineup with a sprained right wrist. Alston logged 21 minutes off the bench against the Mountaineers, but the air-tight score that lingered for most of the game primarily kept OSU’s starting five on the court.“That’s probably their — I don’t want to say weakness because they just beat us — but they’re not as deep as a lot of teams we play,” said West Virginia coach Mike Carey. McGuff will have a few days to mull over how he wants to distribute the reserve minutes before the Buckeyes’ Sweet 16 matchup on either March 27 or March 28 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. OSU is set to face the winner of the second-round contest between No. 7 seed Tennessee and second-seeded Arizona State. Those two teams are scheduled to play Sunday at 9 p.m. in Tempe, Arizona.
Although these elements are thought to include American and British special forces, a UK government spokesman said “there are no British forces on the ground in Syria”. However, the spokesman confirmed to The Telegraph that British jets had on one occasion engaged forces loyal to Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, after SDF troops in contact had called for support. He said the situation was a one-off and if the SDF saw coalition jets as “top cover” for anything other than their fight against Isil they would likely have all support withdrawn.Such incidents are indicative of the complicated and evolving situation. An RAF Intelligence Officer admitted Isil were a resilient enemy. The group shot down a US helicopter in March, he said, and the insurgents have been known to strap bombs onto commercially-bought hand-held drones, before flying them at targets. An RAF Typhoon pilot, with over 4000 flying hours, said a simple yet robust system has been put in place to ensure British and Russian jets never get close to each other. For security purposes this mechanism will not be divulged to the public. Of the residual Isil threat, the group can “no longer weather the storm,” says an RAF Intelligence Officer. Their use of torture and human shields shows why they need to be eradicated.“Our mission is to defeat Daesh before they can export terrorism or inspire terrorism back in the UK,” says Gp Capt Dickens. Terrorism is not defined by national borders, its inspired by a narrative, he added.“If we can defeat them as a fighting force, people will not be inspired by their message.”“What we are seeing is that they are increasingly leaving the battlefield. Their experience from Iraq and Syria is that if they stay, we will target them and we will kill them from the air.” The Daily Telegraph understands the Defence Secretary is particularly concerned that Isil – also known as Daesh – might gain a foothold in Afghanistan on the back of a resurgent Taliban. The ungoverned spaces across north Africa are other areas of concern.“Daesh is facing territorial defeat in Syria and Iraq but the battle against their poisonous ideology and barbarism is not over,” Mr Williamson said.“We must be prepared as the terrorists change their approach, disperse into other countries and prepare for a potential insurgency.”Commenting on the enduring threat, Mr Williamson said: “Daesh remains the most significant terrorist threat to the UK due to its ability to inspire, direct and launch attacks. That is why we continue working through the Global Coalition to hunt down Daesh terrorists wherever they lurk.” Alongside the “overwhelming firepower” from the air, coalition ground troops support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in their effort to clear the last pockets of resistance. Groundcrew at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus move two RAF Tornados in readiness for operations over Syria, July 5 2018.Credit:David Rose The air campaign consists of forces from 73 nations. Air Cdre Dennis says that the “fake caliphate” has been expelled from Iraq and the small pockets of resistance in Syria hold only two per cent of the territory they did in 2015.Britain is the second largest contributor to the air war. Of the 27,000 air strikes since the campaign started in 2014, around 1,700 have been from British Typhoon and Tornado fighters and Reaper drones. Voyager refuelling aircraft and Sentinel intelligence assets provide additional niche capabilities. We will target them and we will kill them from the airGroup Captain Dickens A single-seat Typhoon fighter takes off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus for missions in support of the Syrian Democratic Forces. July 5 2018. Credit:David Rose The Defence Secretary’s comments come as British military commanders in the region have been talking about the progress in destroying the insurgent force. Air Commodore Roddy Dennis, who leads Britain’s contribution to the air war against Isil, said the group was no longer a credible force, but needed to be stopped completely.“They’re running scared and know we’re hunting them,” he said at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, from where British aircraft are launched. “They are part of a target set that presents a threat to the UK and we have a government mandate to remove that threat.”“We will attrit them with ruthless precision, and for them there is only one trend: down.” Video footage just declassified by the MoD shows a strike by British Tornados on an Isil weapons facility on June 27. Two Paveway IV guided bombs were used to destroy the site. There were no civilian casualties. Britain must be prepared to fight a future insurgency unless Isil is wiped out in Syria, the Defence Secretary has warned.The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) insurgent group is not fully defeated, Gavin Williamson says, and if allowed to escape their “poisonous ideology” will cause further devastation if the momentum to destroy them falters.Although virtually absent from Iraq and significantly degraded in Syria, Isil fighters remain hidden in unpopulated desert areas including caves.From around 50,000 fighters in 2014, the insurgents are now thought to number only about 2,000. But they are still launching brutal attacks on civilians including beheadings, burning people alive and dragging victims behind motorbikes. The presence of Russian forces in the conflict zone has added further complexity. Group Captain Chas Dickens, the commander of 903 Expeditionary Air Wing, said a hotline has been established between the coalition air headquarters in Al Udeid, Qatar, and the Russians to “de-escalate tension”.“We recognise it requires communication to ensure no miscalculation or unusual air activity,” Gp Capt Dickens says. The hotline is used on average seven hours a week. Seen just outside the fuselage windows of an RAF Voyager tanker aircraft, RAF Typhoon fighters taking part in Op Shader refuel in theatre during a mission in southern Syria. Clearly visible on the jet is a Paveway IV laser guided bomb (the seeker head of another is seen on the far side) and an Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) on the aircraft’s belly. July 6 2018.Credit:David Rose Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. read more