As the Big Ten season is heating up for the Ohio State women’s basketball team, Thursday night welcomes the Northwestern Wildcats to the Schottenstein Center. The Wildcats bring their blizzard defense, hoping to cool down the streak of the Buckeyes before next week’s games against the No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes and No. 6 Indiana Hoosiers.
It’s also the first game of the season against a repeat opponent. Ohio State versus Northwestern Pt. 2 features the teams on the top and bottom of the standings, but anything can happen in the Big Ten.
On Dec. 28, the Buckeyes traveled to Evanston, Illinois and grabbed a convincing 81-48 against the Wildcats, but Thursday might not be the same team from December.
Sure, Northwestern isn’t doing fantastic. They haven’t won any of their seven conference games this season, but in the Buckeyes’ previous meeting with Northwestern, the Wildcats struggled to keep role players on the court.
Forwards Paige Mott and Caileigh Walsh, who average a combined 18.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, got into foul trouble early. The two forwards played 13 and 15 minutes respectively, and Walsh was especially a tough miss for coach Joe McKeown’s side. The forward averaged 13.4 before the meeting with Ohio State but scored seven points.
Thursday, the venue changes, and Northwestern hopes that comes with less whistles.
Northwestern is a dangerous team for a few reasons. The first is added motivation. McKeown’s Wildcats won the regular season Big Ten title in 2019-20. Now, they’re in the cellar of the conference.
Another is having a dominant forward. Walsh is only a sophomore, but has the ability to do what other bigs have done against Ohio State this season. If Northwestern finds Walsh in the paint, if the Buckeyes aren’t ready the Wildcats will keep the game close. See the previous home game against Illinois Fighting Illini’s forward Kendall Bostic for proof, putting up 27 points and 15 rebounds on the Scarlet & Gray.
The third is their defense. Northwestern plays a zone called the “blizzard.” It’s the equivalent of the Buckeyes full court press but shrunk down into a half court defense. The Wildcats will double-team and charge at any ball carrier in the half court. Ohio State’s passing side-to-side should break it up like it did in December, but the Buckeyes have moments where their play isn’t there.
Fewer of those moments for head coach Kevin McGuff’s side and a win seems likely. However, with the Hawkeyes looming four days later, eyes might not be too focused on Northwestern.
“You know how it is, you get ranked No. 2 and win 18 games and everyone’s telling you how good you are,” said McGuff. “So I try to really hammer home every single day that the goal for us right now is to continue to get better, get prepared for the next game on the schedule and that’s where we really put our emphasis and focus.”
- Forward Taylor Thierry was perfect from the field against Nebraska on Saturday, hitting all seven of her shot attempts.
- Freshman forward Cotie McMahon led Ohio State in scoring the last time they faced Northwestern, scoring 24 points and grabbing four rebounds.
- Three Buckeyes were a shot or rebound or two away from a double-double for the away trip against Northwestern. Guard Taylor Mikesell, Rikki Harris and Thierry were each a possession away from the feat.
- Walsh enters Columbus scoring 32 points in the last two games, with 22 points coming against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
- Guard Jillian Brown and forward Courtney Shaw led Northwestern against Ohio State, both coming in off the bench, with 13 and 12 points, respectively
- Guard Sydney Wood is second in the Big Ten in steals and steals per game, totalling 43 for 2.5 steals per game.
Ohio State’s overcome everything that has come their way this season, so Northwestern shouldn’t surprise the Buckeyes.
The Scarlet & Gray will feed off the home crowd, and continue working on improving their half court defense against Northwestern. It won’t likely be the constant full court press that fans are used to, so the game will be closer than expected at times.
Even so, the home team wins this game in the end. Thierry will get her first double-double of her career, but certainly not her last.
How to Watch
Date: Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Schottenstein Center, Columbus, Ohio
Television: Big Ten Network
Stream: Fox Sports with a Big Ten Network subscription
LGHL Prediction: 78-55 Ohio State Buckeyes
While high school athletes are setting out their college hats on a table and streaming their decisions across social media, the Buckeyes have been quiet. The Buckeyes signed two players earlier in the season, but none of the top 2023 names have chosen Ohio State.
Wednesday, coach McGuff shared that there are a few players the Buckeyes are in contact with, but their recruiting overall has changed.
“It’s making sure we continue to find the right kids that fit our program because I think that’s a big part of our success right now,” said McGuff. “We’ve got outstanding kids that they really fit Ohio State and our culture and our program overall.”
The formula’s worked last season and this year, so it might not be going for the top-10 recruits, but finding the mid-level recruits who fit what McGuff and Ohio State is building.