The Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball season has been a roller coaster that started halfway down a big hill. Head coach Kevin McGuff and the Buckeyes welcomed the Tennessee Volunteers to the Schottenstein Center to start the year off against the then No. 5 team in the country.
Since then it’s been five games where the carts almost sat still. Wednesday night, the excitement picks up again as the Buckeyes travel to Louisville, Kentucky to face No. 18 University of Louisville.
Ohio State faces a Louisville Cardinals side that’s not meeting their own expectations to start the season. For the Buckeyes, their success might hinge on the availability of one player. It’s a game full of variables, and here’s what to watch.
The Louisville Cardinals enter Wednesday in a position they’re not used to. Sitting at No. 18 in the polls, head coach Jeff Walz team sits in their lowest ranking since hitting No. 14 in the 2017 season. Also, they haven’t lost more than five games in five years, but already have two in the early 2022-23 season.
Entering this year, Walz lost five players, including three starters. Of that group was Emily Engstler, who ended last season in third place for ACC Player of the Year and part of the ACC’s First Team All-ACC, and Kianna Smith, who was second on the Cardinals averaging 12 points per game.
The learning curve’s been high for Louisville, and a team who prides itself on long tournament runs enters Wednesday with motivation to try and get back on track. Enter the Ohio State Buckeyes.
For the Scarlet & Gray, things are going good, but not great. The good is that they’re sitting at No. 4 in the AP Polls with all six of their wins with a double-digit margin. Also, beating three teams in a row, averaging 103 points per game. Not a bad start to the year.
What’s tipping it into the “not great” category is the absence of guard Jacy Sheldon. Now, guard Madison Greene is no slouch, and she’s led Ohio State over the past two games from the point guard position, but there’s been a dip with Sheldon’s absence.
Looking at the Buckeyes 29.8 turnovers per game, a logical argument is that the Buckeyes faced four schools outside of the Power Five, so the total is skewed. With Sheldon at the helm, the Buckeyes averaged 34 turnovers per game, due to her energetic movement and ability to disrupt opponents in the press.
Only one game with Sheldon starting did the Buckeyes not force at least 30 turnovers, and that was 29 against Tennessee. With Sheldon gone, Oho State’s averaging a paltry (sarcasm intended) 21 per game.
Against Louisville, Sheldon’s unknown status could mean one weapon’s off the court against a team that, even when struggling, is a force.
The Cardinals are led by guard Hailey Van Lith. A First Team All-ACC last season, Van Lith is picking up where she left off this year, averaging the second most points the ACC with 21.2. Even the gaps created by seniors leaving last year was filled by two talents in former Florida State guard Morgan Jones and former Syracuse Orange Chrislyn Carr.
Walz and the Louisville program employ a defense that will throw all different looks at the Buckeyes. For spells of a game, they’re playing in the half court. Without warning, they move to the full court press. Offensively, they’re a team that isn’t afraid to shoot, and shoot quickly, hitting midrange jumpers and threes with relative ease.
Wednesday is a game that’s looking like a fitting way to end the ACC/B1G Challenge.
- Cotie McMahon’s reached a new career high in single game scoring with 20 points against North Alabama.
- Rebeka Mikulášiková earned her second Big Ten Honor Roll award out of three weeks after last week’s performances of 41 points in 39 minutes.
- Lately, Hevynne Bristow’s brought a pop of rebounding off the bench, with 21 in the three-game home stretch.
University of Louisville
|G||Hailey Van Lith|
- Carr played against the Buckeyes last year with Syracuse, where she scored 23 points with four rebounds and two assists in the 97-91 Syracuse victory
- Williams, a 6-foot-5 transfer center from Utah Valley, starts for the Cardinals but only averages 9.6 minutes per game
- Jones joined the Cardinals after three seasons with the Florida State Seminoles
Sheldon’s consistent “day-to-day” status from coach McGuff, and after games that didn’t really need the play of the outstanding guard, looks like an effort to allow Sheldon to rest a knock. If Sheldon doesn’t start against Louisville, that status is more than only day-to-day.
Wednesday is a game made for a full, healthy, set of starters. However, if Greene starts, it might mean less turnovers forced but there are still the skills there to take on this current edition of the Cardinals.
It’s going to be a close game, likely even with the Buckeyes down for spells against a team chalk full of winners. Ohio State has the leadership, team chemistry and buy-in to the game plan though to withstand for 40 minutes and find a victory.
If the Scarlet & Gray has a cold night of shooting though, it could be a difficult night if the defense isn’t on their game. Closing down shooters has been an issue lately, but against teams that haven’t exactly motivated the Buckeyes to their best.
The Cardinals will demand the Buckeyes best game. Louisville doesn’t take their time finding a shot, and have confident shooters like Van Lith who can rack up points quickly.
Quieting the home fans, like Ohio State did in the NCAA Tournament against LSU, is also key. The more shots fall, and the quicker they can apply their defensive press, the easier it’ll be for the Buckeyes.
How to Watch
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: KFC Yum! Center - Louisville, Kentucky
Television: ACC Network
Stream: ESPN+ with an ACC Network Subscription
LGHL Prediction: 82-75 Ohio State Buckeyes
McGuff’s Thoughts on ACC/B1G Challenge
During media availability, McGuff was asked about this week being the final edition of the ACC/B1G Challenge, a competition that pits the two Power Five conferences against each other. Specifically, how he felt about it ending.
McGuff isn’t sad to see the annual tournament go, mainly because of scheduling. The challenge takes the power out of the hands of coaches and programs to put their schedule the way they want to.
With the challenge ending, Ohio State can still play ACC teams, but now the Buckeyes have the fluidity to schedule a calendar that works best for them. It also allows Ohio State to not need four smaller non-conference games in a row like the Scarlet & Gray went through in the past two week.