It’s been almost two years since the Ohio State women’s basketball team beat the Indiana Hoosiers. In the three games that followed, the Buckeyes didn’t have an answer for head coach Teri Moren and the Hoosiers, but this year is different for the Scarlet & Gray on many fronts.
Thursday had the potential to be the Buckeyes’ record breaker. A win against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Monday and Indiana on Thursday would’ve been a 21-game winning streak, the longest in program history.
But that isn’t happening, after Ohio State’s 83-72 defeat at the hands of Iowa. Instead, it’s now a night where the Buckeyes hope to redeem themselves following a tough showing at home.
Monday and Thursday have a lot of parallels, game-wise, for the Buckeyes. The Hoosiers are a talented top-10 team who feature stars and key role-players. While the stars for Indiana don’t shine as bright as Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark — there’s only one other player on that level in South Carolina center Aaliyah Boston — the Hoosiers still have a pair of impressive upperclassmen.
They come in the form of center Mackenzie Holmes and point guard Grace Berger.
Holmes is a 6-foot-3 junior center who plays similar to Boston. She’s dominant in the paint and still has the agility to make moves around defenders and score at a high level. Before suffering a knee injury in Jan. 2022, Holmes made the Buckeyes suffer. Holmes scored 30 points in Columbus, on top of seven rebounds. There was no answer for her within the Ohio State lineup.
This year, Holmes is back to pre-injury levels and then some. Homes averages 21.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and shoots 67.3% from the floor. The center from Maine also led the team this year on the court when Berger was out with a knee injury of her own. In the stretch of nine games, Indiana went 8-1 with Holmes grabbing four double-doubles.
That lone defeat for the 19-1 Hoosiers was against the Michigan State Spartans, a loss that gives hope to the Buckeyes.
In that game, Holmes had 32 points and 12 rebounds, but the Spartans were able to force mistakes from the rest of the team. Indiana gave away 21 turnovers in the game, and lost 83-78, although that was in East Lansing, Michigan away from the crimson-clad Hoosier fans.
Also, Indiana was without Berger.
Entering this season in Indiana, the Hoosiers were without Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, a fantastic point guard from Spain who played outstanding defense and earned a spot on the Second Team All-B1G. After Cardaño-Hillary ended her NCAA career, Berger slid over to the point guard role.
Running the Indiana offense this season, Berger’s scoring is down but her assists are up, with 5.1 per game. Berger is also hitting 52% of her shots this season, leading the only team in the Big Ten that’s shooting over 50% as a team at 50.3%.
Against Iowa, the Buckeyes suffered because on defense they left center Monika Czinano open with space to move. Berger is someone like Clark who can find those players charging into open space and send in pinpoint passes. She can also score.
it might not get more signature than that. @grace_berger34 pic.twitter.com/5af0rwoQ4V— Indiana Women’s Basketball (@IndianaWBB) January 24, 2023
The combination of Holmes and Berger is the second straight game that will cause headaches for the Scarlet & Gray if their defense isn’t on their toes.
Monday wasn’t all bad though on the defensive front. The Buckeyes held Iowa to no points for almost six minutes in the third quarter, using outstanding defense against the Hawkeyes’ bigs.
Also, this year’s Ohio State team isn’t the same one who lost to Indiana by 20 last year. This edition is more athletic. Inside the paint this time will be a stronger group of forward Rebeka Mikulášiková, sophomore guard/forward Taylor Thierry and freshman Cotie McMahon who doesn’t seem phased by any opponent.
Last season, Thierry hadn’t established herself yet in the Nov. meeting between these two teams, and had minimal impact in the conference tournament, picking up early fouls. Thursday is the first time Indiana will face Thierry at the new level she’s reached this season.
Offensively, Thierry and McMahon were outstanding for the Buckeyes on Monday. If that continues, and guard Taylor Mikesell hits closer to her average, or rises to levels she’s shown frequently over the past almost two years, Ohio State can go toe-to-toe.
Like Monday too, if Mikulášiková has trouble against Holmes like she did against Czinano, there’s substitute Eboni Walker. The Syracuse University transfer was key in that over half a quarter pointless stretch for Iowa.
No matter who’s on the court, the forwards in the paint need to have one eye on Holmes at all times. The guards will have their hands full too. The other three likely starters can all be dangerous on any given night too.
The potential ace up head coach Kevin McGuff’s sleeve is guard Jacy Sheldon. On Tuesday, McGuff shared a positive outlook for the guard on Locked On WBB Podcast, saying he thinks Sheldon will return “very soon.” Also, when she does return, it’ll be because she’s 100%.
If, and it’s a big if, Sheldon does return Thursday, it makes life difficult for the Hoosiers. A Sheldon-led press has taken down the Tennessee Volunteers and Louisville Cardinals this season.
- Forward Eboni Walker’s five steals led the Buckeyes on Monday vs. Iowa.
- Forwards Taylor Thierry and Cotie McMahon were one and two rebounds away, respectively, from securing double-doubles on Monday.
- Two more points for guard Taylor Mikesell gives her 2,000 in her NCAA career.
- Indiana only averages 0.5 more rebounds than Ohio State per game.
- Two Hoosiers average more than five rebounds per game with Mackenzie Holmes (8.3) and Sydney Parrish (5.7).
- Indiana is the only Big Ten team to hold opponents to less than 60 points per game (59.8).
The Buckeyes and Hoosiers are near the top of the conference standings for good reason. Although Ohio State slipped against Iowa, Thursday’s game is going to be closer than Monday’s.
Ohio State starts off strong and doesn’t have a quarter where the Hoosiers completely outplay the Buckeyes. Guard Taylor Mikesell will make up for a quiet game against the Hawkeyes and have a standout performance, scoring at least 25 points in the process.
It’ll still be tough to stop the Hoosiers for McGuff’s side. Holmes will have a double-double, but defense on the perimeter will limit shooters for spells of the game.
Thursday’s game will come down to a possession, but the Buckeyes edge the Hoosiers in Indiana. The result is a toss-up, but Ohio State has added motivation of tough showings against the Hoosiers in the past few years, like the Buckeyes win on New Year’s Eve to break a similar spell against the Michigan Wolverines.
How to Watch
Date: Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana
Television: Big Ten Network
Stream: Fox Sports app with Big Ten Network subscription
LGHL Prediction: 87-84 Ohio State Buckeyes
Jacy Sheldon Watch
There are only a select few people on Earth who know the status of Sheldon for Thursday. Since Land-Grant Holy Land consists of no parts Sheldon, McGuff or team doctors and trainers, the speculation continues.
Starting Sheldon after this long injury, against a team like Indiana, would seem like a knee jerk reaction unless she’s truly 100%. It’s hard to imagine that she is after wearing the boot up until Jan. 14 in Nebraska.
While it would be a huge boost for the Buckeyes’ confidence, a healthy Sheldon is more important in March than January.