On Nov. 27, 2020, the Ohio University Bobcats did the unthinkable. With the No. 22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish in town, Ohio pulled off an 86-85 upset to beat the 2018 NCAA Championship winners. The victory wasn’t only a nice moment in team history, but something of the norm when it comes to the Bobcats facing Power Five teams. Thursday, it’s the Ohio State women’s basketball team’s turn to try and buck the trend.
So, how good have the Bobcats been against goliath-sized opponents? In recent years, Ohio’s beat teams like the University of Pittsburgh, Purdue and the Buckeyes themselves. This new phenomenon featured a Nov. 17, 2019 loss for Ohio State when the Bobcats came up to Columbus, Ohio. Even though the Buckeyes have a 20-1 record against the Bobcats, the growth of women’s basketball is beginning to close gaps.
Could Thursday night go the same way?
Those standout victories, and Ohio State's last in-state loss, have one big difference between the current edition of the Bobcats: It doesn’t include guard Cece Hooks.
Hooks was a revelation in Athens. Out of Dayton, Ohio, the guard ended her career with the Bobcats with her name at or near the top of the program’s record book. The 2021 MAC Player of the Year and four-time First Team All-MAC, MAC Defensive Player of the Year and MAC-All Defensive team member ended her Ohio career leading the team in points, field goals made and steals (and fifth all-time in NCAA history).
Each marquee win in the Bobcat’s five years with Hooks on the roster included the guard until she left in 2022 to enter the WNBA Draft. Although not drafted, Hooks signed a contract with the Minnesota Lynx, before they cut her 15 days later.
The current edition of Ohio University’s team features five players from that Notre Dame win, and just one from the upset in Columbus, but the team is vastly different.
So far this season, the Bobcats lost both of their games, although each was close against Long Island University and then Longwood University. Ohio’s Thursday defeat to Longwood included an unfortunate injury to redshirt junior guard Jasmine Hale.
In the third quarter, Hale went down awkwardly, needing assistance to get off the field after sustaining a left leg injury. Hale started both games for the Bobcats this season but didn’t return to the game following the unfortunate injury, leading the team at the time with 12 points in the loss. As of publishing, there’s no word on Hale’s availability or injury extent.
Leading the Bobcats this year is one of two players to watch: guard Kaitlin Kroll. In two games, the guard leads the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 11.5 points and five rebounds. The other Bobcat who can push the Buckeyes defense is guard Yaya Felder. In a tough second quarter for Ohio on Thursday, where they scored only seven points, four of them came from Felder. The guard is small and can move through the paint and around defenders quickly.
Gameplay wise, the Bobcats play a more traditional defensive man-to-man coverage, with the occasional press in the half court. Ohio capitalizes on mistakes but shooting-wise, have had troubles to begin the season. Against Longwood, Ohio shot 39.7% from the floor and 4-for-22 from three, with many missed opened looks.
Longwood’s defense was a far cry from the defense Ohio will see Thursday. Ohio State’s blistering defense will be a game-changing factor against a struggling, younger, Ohio side.
- This is the first time Land-Grant Holy Land predicted that guard Madison Greene wouldn’t start, which means she likely will.
- Guard Emma Shumate’s played in both Buckeyes games in her first season, could see more minutes if the game gets out of hand.
- Forward Eboni Walker could see more minutes, as she continues to adjust to a new team.
- Guard Jaya McClure leads substitutes with minutes, averaging 8.0 and 4.5 minutes.
- Thursday could be McClure’s first start, as a freshman, if Hale is unavailable.
- Guard Kate Dennis leads the team shooting deep, going 5-for-13 in two starts.
Sunday’s game against Boston College felt like the Buckeyes could be exposed coming down off the “beating Tennessee” high. It was far from it.
Thursday’s game should see a more focused Ohio State team who’ll work to decrease their turnovers. Head coach Kevin McGuff’s critique of the Scarlet & Gray against the Eagles was poor passing and decision making. That and free throws, which McGuff’s been making missed free throw shooters run extra in practice.
Ohio State doesn’t play another true challenge until Nov. 30, when they travel south to the sixth-ranked University of Louisville Cardinals. Before that, there’s a three-game home stretch against smaller conference schools.
Expect the Buckeyes to use Thursday to work on fine-tuning and letting new players further acclimate into the system. Syracuse University transfer Walker is a name McGuff stressed in pre-game media availability. Walker’s an athletic forward who can provide depth in the post, and allow Mikulášiková to not have to play so many minutes, averaging 35.5 minutes, after averaging 20 per game last season.
Although Mikulášiková’s conditioning improved in the offseason, and its shown with her play on the court, more depth will allow that play to sustain throughout the season.
Unless the Buckeyes can’t find their shot, Thursday looks like a one-sided game.
How to Watch
Date: Thursday, Nov. 16, 2022
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Ohio University Convocation Center - Athens, Ohio
LGHL Prediction: 95-52 Ohio State
Roster Honors and Recruiting Loss
This week’s been up and down off the court for the Buckeyes.
In terms of positives, it started Monday with Mikulášiková’s name added to the weekly Big Ten Honor Roll for her first week performance. Mikulášiková averaged 20 points and 9.5 rebounds in both of the Buckeyes double-digit wins.
Tuesday, guards Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Mikesell were added to another preseason watch list. This time it was the Wooden Award, awarded for best player in the country. This follows their addition to the Naismith Award watch list on Nov. 4.
The “down” came Tuesday evening, when No. 5 high school recruit Hannah Hidalgo, a guard out of New Jersey, chose to not bring her abilities to Columbus. Hidalgo trimmed the Buckeyes off her final five choices before the live stream, opting to go with Notre Dame over the Duke and Stanford Universities.
Even so, last Thursday’s 2023 signing Diana Collins brought the mood back up Wednesday. That’s when the guard was named to the Naismith Girls High School Player of the Year watchlist. So it’s a wash?