The Ohio State women’s basketball team returns to non-conference play on Friday, this time facing another team from the America East conference. Another because Ohio State faced a side from the same East Coast conference last week.
On Dec. 8, the University of New Hampshire Wildcats came to Columbus and played in front of 4,000 Columbus City School students. Friday’s game will be a different challenge, playing the University of Albany — a team near the top of the conference.
This will be Ohio State’s last non-conference home game of the regular season. With a trip to San Diego on the horizon, there’s a chance Albany could make the game more interesting than some other home non-conference opponents.
Albany isn’t from a major conference, but they’re the third 2022 NCAA Tournament team to face the Buckeyes this season. While the Tennessee Volunteers and Louisville Cardinals made it there based on strong conference schedules and feature top recruits, the Great Danes made it through winning their conference tournament.
Even though the No. 16 Great Danes lost to No. 1 ranked Louisville Cardinals in the first round of last year’s tournament, Albany isn’t a team that avoids a challenge. Within the America East conference, Albany is in high regard, voted the top team in the America East preseason poll.
This year, Albany’s faces two ACC teams in their non-conference schedule, already playing one of them against the Boston College Eagles — the same Eagles Ohio State beat in their second game of the season. Boston College got the best of Albany, winning 74-62, but competing with ACC teams is no small feat.
If the Buckeyes are focused on a trip to San Diego, California, and a potential match-up against the No. 16 Oregon Ducks, Albany can take advantage of lulls in Ohio State’s energy. The Great Danes can do that because of their team’s foundation.
“One thing about them is they have a lot of older kids, they’re really experienced,” said Buckeyes’ head coach Kevin McGuff. “They execute a lot of stuff on offense, a lot of Princeton stuff that’s not easy to guard.”
Although they sit at 6-6, Albany is a team that’s competed all season through a list of early injuries. Mainly junior guard Kayla Cooper. A 2021-22 Second Team All-American East honoree, and 2022-23 Preseason All-Conference Team selection, Cooper’s just made it back to the court on Wednesday, in a 47-46 win against Stonehill College.
Cooper was second on the Danes last season in scoring, averaging 11.2 points per game and was a force on the boards. The 6-foot guard grabbed 237 rebounds on the season, leading Albany and the third most in the conference.
The guard played 17 minutes in her season debut, off the bench. There’s no word on if Cooper’s next minutes will be in the starting lineup.
Another potential absence from the starting lineup is guard Ellen Hahne. The Swedish Wake Forest transfer has had a strong third season with the Great Danes. In 11 straight starts, Hahne averages a team high in 14.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
Unfortunately for Albany, Hahne missed practice on Tuesday with an undisclosed illness, missing the game against Stonehill. If Hahne plays, she provides an attacker on offense who can exploit a half court defense who’s struggled once teams got past the Ohio State full court press.
- The Buckeyes still have five players who average double-digit points, but guard Taylor Mikesell has passed forward Rebeka Mikulášiková with 18.9 points per game, compared to 17.2 for the forward.
- A start Friday, and guard Madison Greene moves ahead of injured Jacy Sheldon in starts this season with six.
- Forward/guard Taylor Thierry’s 27 offensive rebounds is seventh best in the Big Ten so far this season.
University of Albany
- Joining Cooper on the American East Preseason All-Conference Team is forward Helene Haegerstrand. The Swedish forward averages 12.3 points per game and has six blocks on the season.
- Redshirt junior Morgan Haney hails from Piqua, Ohio — north of Dayton — which means there will be a strong away support for the Great Danes.
- Guard Grace Heeps leads the team in defensive rebounds with 53, showing strong movement into the paint to grab boards as a guard.
The Buckeyes could be surprised by the Great Danes, but it doesn’t seem likely. While Albany is returning their strongest names from illness and injury, Ohio State is also an experienced team. All throughout the early season, the Scarlet & Gray have shown that even when they have a down quarter or two, they have the ability to flip a switch and take over a game.
Ohio State will have a strong crowd behind them on a Friday night, and it’ll propel the Buckeyes in their final home game until New Year’s Eve.
A player to watch is Taylor Thierry. Sure, Thierry’s been a solid performer all season, but Thierry is close to her first double-double. That could happen against the Great Danes who are out rebounded this season by 0.5 boards per game.
Albany can keep the game close, but won’t be able to compete against No. 3 Ohio State for 40 minutes.
How to Watch
Date: Friday, Dec. 16, 2022
Time: 6:00 p.m. ET
Where: Schottenstein Center - Columbus, Ohio
LGHL Prediction: 91-54 Ohio State Buckeyes
Jacy Sheldon Injury Watch
A question entering every game now is “will Jacy Sheldon play?”
That’s unlikely Friday for a couple reasons. First, Sheldon didn’t practice on Wednesday, with everyone else on the roster practicing during media availability. Second, even if healthy enough, there isn’t high reward for the risk of having Sheldon play against the Great Danes.
With that said, there’s not much of a drop with guard Madison Greene in Sheldon’s place. While Sheldon’s six steals per game average can’t be beat by anyone in the NCAA, Greene still plays sound defense on the full and half court.
Offensively, Greene has 58 assists this season — 31 in her five starts, compared to 16 for Sheldon. So, while the same intensity rushing the opponent is missing with Sheldon, the Buckeyes are benefiting offensively.