The Ohio State women’s basketball team is back to Big Ten conference play after a record-tying non-conference win against the New Hampshire Wildcats. On the schedule are the Michigan State Spartans, who are the strongest conference test in the early Big Ten schedule.
Before the home game at the Schottenstein Center, here are three Buckeye storylines to keep an eye on heading into Sunday’s game.
Does Jacy Sheldon Play?
Following the Ohio State Buckeyes' win in Athens, Ohio, against the Ohio University Bobcats, guard Jacy Sheldon was limping slightly as she walked out of the locker room. It was on a short walk for Sheldon to talk about her 22-point night, leading the Buckeyes in a tough shooting performance against in-state rivals.
Sheldon played the next game against the McNeese State Cowgirls, but since then has played only one of the last five games, against the then No. 18 ranked Louisville Cardinals. Called a lower leg injury by head coach Kevin McGuff, Sheldon’s status of day-to-day kept her out of four games, sure, but they weren’t against ranked opponents of the best of the conference.
Sunday seems like it could be a good day, playing a Sparty team who’s rebuilding, but still possesses talent.
When the Dublin, Ohio guard isn’t playing, the Buckeyes’ average turnovers forced per game drops from 32 to 22.75 per game, which 22.75 would still be good enough for third in the conference.
Even without Sheldon, starting-caliber guard Madison Greene’s started in her place. In those four starts, Greene averages 11 points, 6.5 assists, and 2 steals per game. Also, Greene’s only given up the ball seven times across the four games. This is on top of sound defense from the redshirt junior who started for the Buckeyes back in the 20/21 season before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in the days leading up to the 21/22 campaign.
Starting the season, the Buckeyes’ scoring featured seven straight games with at least four Ohio State players hitting double-figures per game. On Sunday, at the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, that changed.
The Scarlet & Gray were led by two players, offensively. Guard Taylor Mikesell’s 30 points and forward Rebeka Mikulášiková’s team-high 31 points were 74% of Ohio State’s scoring on the day, with four other scorers making up the remaining 21 points in the win.
A lot of that drought was attributed by coach McGuff to a lack of energy by the Buckeyes. It looked like Ohio State was playing like they were automatically the No. 3 team in the country and didn’t have to continue playing their game to earn it.
Ohio State found that energy on Thursday, against the Wildcats. While they still ended the day with three Buckeyes in double-figures, the looks became easier than their game against the Scarlet Knights and players made better decisions in the paint to either lay it off or go for the points.
The Buckeyes outscored the Wildcats 53-7 in the second half. While Ohio State won’t expect that lopsided of a half against the Spartans, it’s a sign that their motivation is back.
Another positive is who’s leading the way. There are five Buckeyes averaging at least 10 points a game. Also, in their nine wins, five different players led the team in scoring whereas last season it was a toss-up between either Sheldon or fellow guard Taylor Mikesell on who would run the game.
Mikulášiková leads the way in leading the way, earning top Buckeyes’ scorer in four of Ohio State’s nine games. Mikesell has two and Sheldon, and forwards Taylor Thierry and Cotie McMahon each take a game.
All of last season, only three players ever led Ohio State in the scoring column across 32 games.
In coach McGuff’s 20 seasons as an NCAA head coach, he has winning records against all but two Big Ten teams. Sunday, McGuff and the Buckeyes have the chance to get one of those teams off the list when Sparty comes to town.
McGuff’s teams over the years are 6-7 against Michigan State, with Ohio State earning all six of those wins in the past five seasons. Last year, the Buckeyes won three, including a postseason Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal game.
If the Buckeyes get the win, only Maryland is left on McGuff’s list of Big Ten teams, with a 5-11 record against the Terrapins all-time.