While people in Central Ohio prepare for a chilly Thanksgiving holiday week, the Ohio State women’s basketball team is going on a trip to the Caribbean. On the schedule are two games in three days at the Baha Mar Pink Flamingo Championship, in the Bahamas.
Up first for the Buckeyes is the East Carolina Pirates, a team that shares traits with the scarlet and gray.
In two home games last week, the Buckeyes survived unscathed. Following a lopsided win against the IUPUI Jaguars and a surprisingly one-sided game against the Boston College Eagles, which featured a scoreline that made the game look much closer than it appeared.
Now, Ohio State’s opponents increase in difficulty — slightly. It begins with a matinee matchup against the Pirates of East Carolina, who gives the Buckeyes a challenge they haven’t quite seen this year. That’s because the Pirates will employ a defense a lot like the Buckeyes’.
East Carolina plays a full court press, including an Ohio State-esque backcourt trap where immediately off the inbound pass, two players will close. Where the teams differ on defense is twofold.
The first, East Carolina carries that attack across the half court line. Out of the press, the Buckeyes move to a more traditional half court defense. When the Pirates score, expect Ohio State players to have that same intense press well into the front court.
After three games, East Carolina’s turnover margin is +18, with the Temple Owls a distant second in the American Athletic Conference with +9.5. In that, the Pirates loot like actual pirates, stealing the ball 21.33 times per game on average.
To put that in perspective, Ohio State averages 7.5 steals per game following its first three games and are second to last in the Big Ten, giving away 21 turnovers per game. That means the Buckeyes passing is an area to watch.
An example of Ohio State passing that won’t work is if it goes back to its form against the USC Trojans. In the scarlet and gray’s 20 turnovers in that defeat, relaxed passing gave the Trojans easy fast break points. The second difference in the defenses is who these teams faced so far in the 23-24 season.
East Carolina’s 2-1 record is against three teams that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament in 2023. It’s not three teams who were close either, with none of the three having winning records in the 22-23 season. Ohio State is sure to give the Pirates much more of a challenge.
The Buckeyes’ defensive press is diverse this year, and its half court work is strong and not seen as a liability. Guards Jacy Sheldon and Celeste Taylor have the experience to both steer the passing through the Pirates’ press and turn around and cause similar issues for the Pirates.
Those two Ohio State home games against non-conference opponents helped improve team chemistry overall, and individual performances followed. The Buckeyes loss to USC was put in the rearview mirror with strong individual performances by most starters.
After putting up only seven points against the soon-to-be Big Ten USC side, McMahon scored 44 points in two games, turning over the ball only once and grabbing six rebounds and four steals.
Forward Taylor Thierry continued her NCAA-leading field goal percentage (83.3%), missing three combined shots in two games. What impressed about those numbers is where Thierry scored the points. Against IUPUI, the guard/forward hybrid was parked deep, hitting three-point shots. Then, against Boston College, Thierry was inside the paint causing issues for opponents.
On the bench, the standout of the week is forward Taiyier Parks. Following a tough five-minute debut against USC, the former Michigan State forward showed her ability to move and score in the paint, using her strength and size to get past opponents. It’s an adjustment new players especially can hone in on during early non-conference games against non-Power Five schools.
Parks, and starting forward Rebeka Mikulášiková, will be needed Monday against sophomore Amiya Joyner. The 6-foot-2 forward is the kind of player that usually gives the Buckeyes trouble.
Joyner has 13 double-doubles in 34 career NCAA games, and averaged 9.7 rebounds per game as a freshman. The size and athleticism will make rebounding more difficult for Ohio State. If the Pirates can win the rebounding margin, and force turnovers like it has against the mid majors its faced so far this season, Monday could be more interesting than the last two Buckeyes’ games.
- Head coach Kevin McGuff confirmed that guard Madison Greene won’t have any minutes in the Bahamas, but is getting closer to returning.
- Mikulášiková is starting, but is getting a more even minutes share with Parks. Mikulášiková averages 16.7 minutes per game and Parks is right behind her, averaging 13.3 minutes.
- Duke transfer Taylor is still adjusting on the offensive end, but is leading Ohio State in steals with eight over three games.
- Guard Danae McNeil leads the Pirates in scoring with 19.0 points per game, but she’s also the reigning AAC Defensive Player of the Year. McNeil averages 4.7 steals per game so far this season.
- Get past the two stars in McNeil and Joyner, and the Pirates team doesn’t match the depth of the Buckeyes, with no other player averaging at least seven points per game on the roster.
- ECU is an experienced team, like Ohio State. The Pirates start four upperclassmen, and haven’t seen a freshman take the court this season.
Monday’s game will be exciting, strictly from all the running that’ll be done by both defenses. However, it won’t be an overly competitive game for four quarters.
East Carolina enters Monday’s game six days after a loss to Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU had trouble scoring to start the game because of the press, but the Pirates couldn’t capitalize either. Halfway through the first quarter the score was 1-0, with one VCU free throw.
The first Baha Mar Pink Flamingo game for the Buckeyes won’t be that low scoring, at least on Ohio State’s side. Expect the scarlet and gray to come on strong. With the passing of Taylor and Sheldon, expect Thierry and McMahon to benefit the most, getting down the court for more open looks or one-on-one matchups in the paint. Expect a big game for McMahon especially if the forward.
How to Watch
Date: Monday, Nov. 20, 2023
Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
Where: Baha Mar Resort, Bahamas
LGHL Prediction: 79-60 Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State’s trip to the Bahamas is the first of three bucket list style journeys the squad’s made this season. First, it was a team bonding trip to Brazil in August. Then it was starting the regular season in Las Vegas, Nevada. Now it’s the Caribbean.
It’s a fitting itinerary so far in the 2023-24 season for a team that made national headlines last season in the NCAA tournament. On the first day, players were posting pictures from the beach across their social media platforms, but once Monday comes, it’s back on the task at hand and it's two games in three days. Wednesday, Ohio State takes on the other OSU: Oklahoma State University.
On the other end of this trip, and after the holiday week, the Buckeyes have the Tennessee Volunteers looming. Staying fresh and continuing the team growth in the Bahamas will go a long way before going into hostile territory down in SEC country.