Entering this season, there was always going to be an identity crisis for the Spartans. Michigan State lost their star leading-scorer and team leader Nia Clouden. Also, their top rebounder in forward Tamara Farquhar and role-players Alisia Smith and Alyza Winston.
It was a team destined to fall into the hands of guard Matilda Ekh, a Swedish international who averaged 11.8 points per game, and guard DeeDee Hagemann. Both sophomores, they needed reinforcement for Michigan State to compete this season, and they got it in transfer guard Kamaria McDaniel.
McDaniel is no stranger to the Big Ten. The 5-foot-10 guard played with Penn State for three seasons to start her NCAA career, earning a spot on the Second Team All-B1G in 2020 after scoring the second highest points per game average in the conference with 19.8.
McDaniel then moved on to Baylor university. After two seasons, and one where she didn't play due to injury, McDaniel found her form again in the league where she started, leading the Spartans with 15 points per game.
Even with McDaniel, Ekh and Hagemann, it’s been an expectedly up and down start to the season. Michigan State started off impressive enough, winning their first six games, but once ranked opponents, the ACC/B1G Challenge and conference play began, it’s been four straight defeats.
Against then No. 5 Iowa State, with Ekh away on international duty, the Cyclones humbled Sparty 80-49 in the first of two Phil Knight Invitational games. In their second, three days later, Ekh returned and Michigan State looked disjointed but held their own against then No. 18 Oregon Ducks.
Something impressive from the Spartans against the Ducks, and something to look for on Sunday, was their passing out of the press. Oregon played a full court press, and forced only 10 turnovers against Michigan State on the day. Ohio State needs their press to hit the energy level needed to make it effective, as the last two games showed what happens when it’s flat.
Michigan State is no slouch in the turnover department either. Sparty sits second in forced turnovers in the conference. That means the Buckeyes can’t afford to lose possessions and give a Michigan State team who’s struggling to find consistent scoring the chance to get into a rhythm.
If guard Jacy Sheldon’s day-to-day lower leg injury allows her to play Sunday, there’s a better chance that the Buckeyes’ press — which is more dangerous than Oregon’s — makes an impact.
- Cotie McMahon’s 20 points makes her the fifth Buckeye this season to lead the team in points.
- Taylor Mikesell leads the conference in three-pointers made this season with 30.
- If Sheldon returns, it’ll be only her second start in the last six Ohio State games.
- Forward Isa Alexander started her first game against Purdue on Monday, and averages 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
- Ekh and Hagemann are the only returning starters for the Spartans from last season.
- Junior Gabby Elliot transferred from Clemson this offseason, and has started all 10 games for Michigan State.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are every bit of their No. 3 ranking when their defense is firing and causing mistakes. Michigan State’s new team chemistry is a perfect opponent to force the issue on the press. The Scarlet & Gray will have those chances Sunday, as long as they’re making good decisions shooting.
A first home Big Ten game feels like a similar game to facing a Tennessee Volunteers or Indiana Hoosiers. Head coach Kevin McGuff and Ohio State will look to play their game to get back on track of keeping their performances consistent.
Sheldon starts and plays her best game shooting deep, after starting the season 5-for-16 on three-point attempts. Also, fellow Central Ohioan, forward Cotie McMahon, will continue her strong second half from New Hampshire and show coach McGuff that she can stay on the floor and produce in big games.
McDaniel will have success attacking the basket, an area that Ohio State has been vulnerable this season. Even so, it’s going to be a game where the Buckeyes can force their game on the Spartans and grab their 10th double-digit victory margin in a row.
How to Watch
Date: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022
Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
Where: Schottenstein Center - Columbus, Ohio
Television: Big Ten Network
Stream: Fox Sports with Big Ten Network subscription
LGHL Prediction: 89-74 Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Non-Conference Stretch
A win against Michigan State keeps the momentum going into the Buckeyes’ pre-Christmas trip to San Diego for a game against the USF Bulls, and a second against either the Oregon Ducks or Arkansas Razorbacks.
After Sunday, Ohio State doesn’t play another home conference game for 20 days, when they welcome the other Michigan team to Columbus on New Year’s Eve.