The talk is almost over. After a Sweet Sixteen exit for the Ohio State women’s basketball team on March 25, the discussion has been around transfers, new names and games of the future and past. Now it’s time for a basketball to be tipped and a 29-game regular season to commence. For Ohio State, they do it in a big way, welcoming the Tennessee Volunteers to Columbus on Tuesday.
The opener is the 12th time these two teams meet in their long basketball histories and the first time since 2016. Ohio State’s lost 10 of the previous 11 editions — all by double-digits — and haven’t beaten Tennessee since a 1981 double overtime victory. However, Tuesday’s season tip is only the second time the Buckeyes faced a Vols team that isn’t coached by legendary former head coach Pat Summitt.
None of the history matters for 2022. Here’s what you need to know.
Ohio State has a lot they’ll need to do to compete with the Volunteers. Tennessee is strong in the paint and will cause problems for the Buckeyes’ forwards. Last season, the Volunteers were second in the SEC in rebound differential, behind the NCAA national championship-winning South Carolina Gamecocks. The Vols +12.7 on the boards goes up against a Buckeyes team who won the Big Ten regular season co-championship, despite having a -1.3 differential in rebounding.
Leading the opponents in rebounding is Naismith watch list honoree, center Tamari Key. Ohio State doesn’t have anyone who can match up against the 6-foot-6 big who averaged 8.1 rebounds and 3.5 blocks last season.
To make matters even worse for the Scarlet & Gray, Tennessee was active in the transfer portal in the offseason, adding a forward who’s going to make life in the back and frontcourt even more difficult. That’s 6-foot-2 forward Rickea Jackson. The Mississippi State transfer not only averaged 6.8 rebounds per game, but also led the entire SEC in points per game with 20.3.
Head coach Kevin McGuff is likely to go with a full court defense to try and disrupt Tennessee’s offense, and swarm the paint to make rebounds more difficult. Ohio State did the same thing against the LSU Tigers in the second round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
In that game, Ohio State out-rebounded a Tigers team 43-36, when LSU had the third best rebound differential in the SEC at +9.0. That means forward Rebeka Mikulášiková and whoever starts alongside her will be busy.
Which brings up the next point, who’s going to start for the Buckeyes?
A full breakdown of the predicted lineups is below, but it seems like a toss-up between forwards Cotie McMahon and Taylor Thierry for the four-spot. McMahon impressed the most in the Buckeyes exhibition versus Ohio’s Notre Dame College last Monday. The freshman was poised offensively, played confidently and had good court vision to find teammates.
Thierry is the other option, a sophomore who started last season quietly but earned a spot as the second player off the bench for McGuff. What Thierry lacks in offense is made up in intensity, athleticism and the ability to cause turnovers. Thierry can make moves and challenge defensively, but gets into foul trouble, which forces her to change her game.
Also like the Tigers, the Volunteers aren’t known for shooting from deep. Tennessee shot the fifth lowest amount of threes a game in the SEC at 14.5 attempts and 4.4 makes per game. With less players stretching the Buckeyes defense, a more compact game might benefit Ohio State.
- Madison Greene returns for her first competitive season game since Feb. 10, 2021
- Taylor Mikesell and Jacy Sheldon were listed to the Naismith watch list on Friday
- Mikulášiková is likely to start her second season carrying the load in the paint
- Jasmine Powell transferred from Minnesota in the offseason and started the Vols exhibition against Carson-Newman
- Jordan Horston returns from an injury she suffered in Feb. 2022
- Horston played in Columbus, at Columbus Africentric Early College, where Horston became the No. 2 ranked player in her graduating class and No. 1 ranked guard
This is a tough matchup for Ohio State. As stated earlier, fighting in the paint wasn’t a strength for the Buckeyes last season, suffering big losses to the Michigan Wolverines and forward Naz Hillmon as well as Mackenzie Holmes and the Indiana Hoosiers. Ohio State improved against stronger inside teams last year, but Tennessee is at a different level.
McGuff and the Buckeyes had all preseason to focus on this game and prepare, so it’ll be a competitive game. A lot will come down to the guards. If Greene, Sheldon and Mikesell can frustrate Tennessee’s guard group led by a potential All-American in Horston, there’s a fighting chance. LSU beat the Vols last season, but that was after Horston went down with an injury and without Jackson.
If Ohio State can control the tempo and force turnovers while limiting their own, it’ll be a bright start to the season — whether that’s with an underdog win or a competitive defeat.
How to Watch
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2022
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Schottenstein Center - Columbus, Ohio
TV: Big Ten Network
Stream: Fox Sports app
LGHL Prediction: 75-68 Tennessee
A Little Extra
McGuff and the Buckeyes are pushing the marketing for this game. Across social medias and at other Ohio State events, McGuff has challenged people to come out to the game.
The first 2,000 fans in the doors get a 2021-22 Big Ten Regular Season Champions shirt.