A major critique for the 2021-22 Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball team was their lackluster non-conference schedule. After losing multiple starters to the transfer portal, their return to playoff basketball after self-imposed sanctions started with a slate of games that could help a relatively inexperienced team gel. Well, that team won the Big Ten regular season co-championship and made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
Now, a little over a year after their last campaign began, the Scarlet & Gray face their stiffest non-conference test in a season with a couple non-conference tests already passed. Tuesday, the Buckeyes face the USF Bulls, with a match-up within 24 hours against either the No. 16 Oregon Ducks or No. 17 Arkansas Razorbacks.
It begins with the Bulls, a team the Buckeyes haven’t had much luck with in recent years.
The USF Bulls, out of the American Athletic Conference, have faced the Buckeyes twice in the head coach Kevin McGuff years. In both contests, not only did the University of South Florida win, but win big.
On Feb. 11, 2018, the Bulls invited the Buckeyes to Tampa, Florida and Ohio State left with an 84-65 victory. Less than a year later, in an early season Nov. matchup, the Bulls came to Columbus, beating the Scarlet & Gray by 24 points.
A lot’s changed since 2018 for Ohio State. None of the current team was part of those two losses and the only consistent piece for both teams are their leaders.
McGuff leads the No. 3 ranked team in the nation, likely without his starting point guard, and Bulls head coach Jose Fernandez leads a Bulls team who’s made the NCAA Tournament in six of the past eight seasons where the tournament was played.
There are similarities between the two teams this year. The first is that both aren’t afraid to shoot from deep.
USF leads the American Athletic Conference, making 36.4% of their 239 threes attempted this season. Ohio State’s 36.3% of their 245 shots (in two less games) means that the ball will be flying at the neutral site San Diego Invitational.
Leading the way for the Bulls is guard Sammie Puisis. The Mason, Ohio native’s shot 100 on the season, sinking 40 attempts. Alongside Puisis is one of four starters hailing from outside of the United States, guard Elena Tsineke.
The guard from Thessaloniki, Greece enters the season as a preseason All-AAC First Team player after securing a spot on the 2021-22 first team. When the opponents get bigger, so do the performances for Tsineke. Against Georgia Tech of the ACC, and the Big 12’s Texas Longhorns, Tsineke’s scored 24 and 22 points, respectively.
What makes her more dangerous is that defenses don’t know how she'll beat you each time up the court. Tsineke possesses impressive ball handling skills and attacks the basket, breaks away from defenders to shoot midrange and hits shots from deep. There’s a reason Tsineke was the conference voter’s pick for Preseason Player of the Year this season.
Tsineke is only one of the Bulls weapons too. The other is in the paint with Cameroonian Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu. Fankam Medndjiadeu joined the Bulls last season, after transferring from their fellow AAC side, the Memphis Tigers. This season, the 6-foot-4 big averages a double-double with 15.6 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.
Ohio State’s played tough centers this season, like Tennessee Volunteers’ Tamari Key, and neutralized them. Tuesday’s test ranks up there, making the play of forward Rebeka Mikulášiková and guard Taylor Thierry more important than usual.
Fankam Medndjiadeu averages over three personal fouls per game this season, leading the Bulls with 42. Getting her into trouble early will benefit Ohio State like it did to start the season against the Volunteers.
- With Cotie McMahon’s recent surge, there are six Ohio State players averaging double-digit points, showing the team’s diversity of scoring.
- Thierry leads NCAA with a field goal percentage of 73.4% — over three percentage points higher than the next player.
- After eight games of double-digit scoring, Mikulášiková’s gone on a little cold spell, scoring 18 points total in the last three games.
University of South Florida
|Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu
- Although guard Aeriel Powers doesn’t score in bunches, the point guard averages 4.2 assists per game for the Bulls.
- Four of USF’s normal starters this season hail from outside of the USA, representing Greece, Cameroon, Spain, and Canada
- Half of the Bulls are underclassmen this year.
Something the Bulls of USF don’t do particularly well compared to the Buckeyes is cause turnovers. Although USF is predicted to win the AAC this season, they force the second lowest turnovers against their opponents, causing 13.7 per game. That bodes well for likely starting guard Madison Greene, playing for an injured Jacy Sheldon who now dons crutches.
Greene’s protected the ball well and facilitated for the Buckeyes this season. Defensively, she’ll have a tall task with Tsineke on the court but Greene’s solid, confident, ability on the defensive half of the court will benefit the Scarlet & Gray. In the past two games, Greene’s picked up her play in the full court press of the Buckeyes, grabbing 11 steals.
Overall, it’ll be a close game, like the Michigan State Spartans matchup. Ohio State will get better shooting performances from guard Taylor Mikesell and Mikulášiková, after a tough game against the Great Danes.
Their combined 17 points against UAlbany, compared to their over 36.1 points combined average, featured shots they usually hit. Shoot closer to their averages and that takes pressure off their teammates.
How to Watch
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Pechanga Arena - San Diego, California
LGHL Prediction: 82-78 Ohio State Buckeyes
For some fans, it’s hard to remember that the athletes representing Ohio State are also students. On Sunday, there was a nice reminder.
Guards Mikesell and Harris received their diplomas, part of the fall 2022 commencement. Mikesell earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and Harris earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Science degree.
Mikesell might get a fun graduation present, depending on the scoreline of Arkansas vs. Oregon. A game against the Ducks gives Mikesell a chance to play against her former team, a one-year stint, with even Mikesell’s teammates wanting to make a statement against the Pac-12 side.
Ducks or no Ducks, if playing basketball at the college level is tough, doing it while earning a degree is even tougher. That should be celebrated.