With the constant conference shuffling of universities in the last few years, a recent casualty was basketball’s ACC/B1G Challenge. Since 2007 on the women’s side, Ohio State women’s basketball took on a team from the predominantly east coast conference, culminating in a win over the Louisville Cardinals in the final iteration during the 22-23 season.
This year, the Buckeyes continue the tradition, in a way, taking on the Boston College Eagles in Columbus. Part of a two-year home-and-home agreement, both the Buckeyes and Eagles enter Thursday’s game with key differences that will impact the game.
Ohio State enters Thursday off a one-sided victory against the IUPUI Jaguars at the Schottenstein Center. The game showed that the Buckeyes can look cohesive for four quarters, unlike its first game of the season against the USC Trojans. However, the opponent wasn’t nearly the same caliber.
Against Boston College, the challenge is higher than Sunday, but it isn’t a game between two evenly matched sides. From the Eagles perspective, a win over the Buckeyes would be a big upset.
That’s because the team that Ohio State faced, and beat, last year in New England isn’t the same side head coach Kevin McGuff’s side can expect to enter the Schottenstein Center. The Eagles fell 82-64, and this time around Boston College is without their two leading playmakers.
Forward Maria Gakdeng and guard Taina Mair, the two leading scorers for the Eagles, transferred out after featuring prominently for head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee. Starting every game for Boston College, the duo both left for other ACC schools: Gakdeng to the North Carolina Tar Heels and Mair to rival Duke Blue Devils.
Versus the Buckeyes on Nov. 13, 2022, Mair had 10 assists, seven points and three steals in her third NCAA game. The 6-foot-3 forward Gakdeng led all Eagles with 13 points, adding five rebounds in what was actually a subdued game for a big going up against Ohio State’s usually light paint defense against impressive post players.
Now, the lineup for the Eagles looks a lot different, returning two starters from the end of the 22-23 campaign. In terms of new blood, there’s one transfer and four freshman taking up spots on the roster. From the West Virginia Mountaineers is guard Savannah Samuel, who hasn’t played a minute for the Eagles this season.
In terms of experience, there are two seniors and four juniors on a squad of 14 players, meaning there’s a distinct advantage to the Buckeyes who are a team on the older side, in terms of NCAA squads. It’s a situation ripe for Ohio State to take advantage.
Returning for the Buckeyes are the same four who faced the Eagles last year, minus guard Taylor Mikesell. Standing out was Ohio State guard Jacy Sheldon, who had a double-double with points and steals with 14 and 11, respectively. This year, Sheldon is playing as consistent as the healthy guard from two seasons ago when the scarlet and gray won a share of the Big Ten regular season title.
Across Ohio State’s two games, Sheldon averages 19.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Plus three steals per game, playing above career averages, although there’s a small sample size for the 23/24 season.
Sheldon’s looked healthy again, diving on the court for loose balls and forcing turnovers, even if she’s not the one grabbing as many steals as the start of last season. Still, six steals in two games is impressive for any NCAA athlete, even if the Sheldon of 22/23 grabbed 17 in two games to start the season.
Instead, Sheldon’s splitting the defensive guard load with Duke transfer Celeste Taylor. Although the pair looked a little disjointed against USC, the reps against IUPUI showed the duo’s capabilities. Against Boston College, it’ll be a slightly larger test.
On the opposition is still dangerous players, most notably guard Dontavia Waggoner. The former NC State guard had a career high six steals against the Buckeyes in Boston last year. Also adding nine points and close to a career high in rebounds with 13. The guard’s energy caught Ohio State off guard, and made life difficult for the Buckeyes when Waggoner was on the court, giving a matchup to watch on Thursday.
This season, the Eagles are 2-1. None of the three games came against Power Five conference opponents, beating Holy Cross and Northeastern, with a loss to Harvard sandwiched between the two victories. None of the wins have been convincing either, beating Holy Cross by five and Northeastern by nine.
Something in the visitor’s favor is what lies ahead for the scarlet and gray, potentially shifting focus to next week. After Thursday, Coach McGuff’s side heads to the Bahamas for two games in three days, facing the East Carolina Pirates and Oklahoma State Cowgirls.
- Forward Taylor Thierry is 8-for-9 from the floor this year, missing one three. Thierry leads Buckeye starters in efficiency, rebounds and her 14.0 points per game is third on the team.
- After taking no free throws against the Trojans, forward Cotie McMahon was more aggressive against IUPUI, getting to the line 10 times, making eight.
- Forward Taiyier Parks recovered from a tough five minutes against USC to a 12-point, five-rebound performance in only 14 minutes against IUPUI.
- Boston College is last in the ACC in shooting efficiency heading into Thursday, shooting 36.2% from the field.
- Waggoner leads the Eagles and the entire conference in shot attempts after three games, but is shooting a career low 38.8%.
- For the shooting concerns, Boston College takes care of the ball, ranking 22nd in the nation averaging 11 turnovers per game
The upcoming trip to the beach won't be a distraction for the Buckeyes. The competitors on Ohio State grew against IUPUI, and Thursday will be much of the same. Ohio State gets off to a strong start, thanks to forward Rebeka Mikulášiková who will control the paint early.
Similar to the IUPUI game, starters won’t have to play more than 30 minutes in the contest, although most of the Buckeyes’ top players didn’t even reach 20 minutes against the Jaguars. Taylor will be on Waggoner and limit attempts, and Ohio State will cruise to a comfortable win against the ACC side.
How to Watch
Date: Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Schottenstein Center, Columbus, Ohio
LGHL Prediction: 89-62 Ohio State Buckeyes
On Tuesday, The Wooden Award, in honor of former legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden, included three Buckeyes in its top 50 for the 23-24 season. Graduate senior guards Sheldon and Taylor joined sophomore forward McMahon on the list.
Given out by the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the historically men’s award branched out to the women’s game beginning the ‘03-04 season. Since its inception, only one player from the Big Ten received the honor, and that came last season when Iowa Hawkeyes megastar Caitlin Clark swept most Player of the Year honors.
If a Buckeye wins, it’ll be the second time the university overall has won the honor, after men’s guard Evan Turner won it for the ‘09-10 season.