Ohio State women’s basketball is back on the court for the final home game of the 2023 calendar. That’s when the Buckeyes host the Belmont Bruins of the Missouri Valley Conference. In most seasons, it’d be another non-conference game against a mid-major side, but this time around it carries importance for many reasons.
The fun storyline is a father vs. daughter. Head coach Kevin McGuff’s Buckeyes take on guard Kilyn McGuff, his oldest daughter, and her Bruins team. The less fun storyline is what this game means to Ohio State. After a less than stellar four-quarter performance against UCLA on Monday, the scarlet and gray need to bounce back.
Isolate the first and fourth quarters for Ohio State against No. 2 UCLA on Monday, and the Buckeyes outscored the Bruins 43-31. However, women’s NCAA basketball games are notoriously four quarters long. In the two middle quarters, shots weren’t falling and fouls amassed quickly as UCLA asserted its dominance in a 46-28 performance.
Scoring-wise, guards Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Thierry were far ahead of their peers. The two scored 50 of Ohio State’s 71 points in Monday’s defeat, giving the remaining four players who got onto the scoresheet combining for 21 points. The Sheldon and Thierry-less group shot 21.2% from the floor.
Friday’s midday game is not UCLA though. The Belmont Bruins don’t feature an unstoppable 6-foot-7 center, but that doesn’t mean a victory is guaranteed. Belmont’s shown over the past two seasons that it can compete.
Belmont is going to bring team basketball to the Schottenstein Center. The Bruins aren’t the biggest or fastest team Ohio State will face, but they’re a side that is organized, passes well and plays strong inside and outside games. There aren’t as drastic roles for a team like Belmont.
In the last nine games, the Bruins used the same five players in the starting lineup, and all five of them average at least 10 points per game, and three of them grab at least six rebounds per game. That’s not the sign of a team with stereotypical basketball responsibilities. Belmont will test the half court and transitional defense of the Buckeyes. The Bruins have also faced a full court press similar to the Buckeyes this season.
Against the Georgia Bulldogs on Nov. 10, Belmont showed its maturity and chemistry. The Bruins gave up the ball 12 times against the pressing Bulldogs, the third fewest this season. Scoring-wise, Georgia lacked its own organization to get back on defense and gave up a staggering nine three-pointers by forward Kendall Cheesman, on 15 attempts.
Ohio State hasn’t lost to a non-power five conference school since losing to the South Dakota Bobcats on Nov. 29, 2019, but Belmont has the ability to be the next one, if the Buckeyes look past the Bruins. Fortunately for the scarlet and gray, it’ll be hard to do following a tough defeat against the other Bruins on Monday.
G- Jacy Sheldon
G- Celeste Taylor
G- Taylor Thierry
F- Cotie McMahon
F- Rebeka Mikulášiková
- Guard Madison Greene played nine minutes against UCLA, showing how important it is for head coach Kevin McGuff to have the redshirt senior on the court, in only her third game back following a knee injury in December of 2022.
- Forward Cotie McMahon’s two three-point shots against UCLA is the fourth time she’s hit multiple in a game in her NCAA career, and the first this season.
- Forward Taiyier Parks had a difficult night against UCLA on Monday, with two turnovers, two fouls and no points in nine minutes against the Bruins.
G- Tuti Jones
G- Jailyn Banks
G- Kilyn McGuff
F- Tessa Miller
F- Kendall Cheesman
- Four of the five projected starters for Belmont played the last two seasons together, with only guard Jailyn Banks being a freshman.
- Forward Kendall Cheesman is the outside shooter to watch for the Bruins, leading the team and Missouri Valley Conference with 27 made three-point shots in 10 games, compared to only 39 made in 33 appearances last season for Belmont.
- Belmont plays good basketball and gives ranked teams issues, losing to ranked Villanova and Louisville during the 22-23 season, but less than five points in each game.
With the upcoming Christmas holiday weekend, a game against Belmont could be a trap, but it won’t. Ohio State will withstand an early Bruins attack, but the shooting will be vastly improved for the Buckeyes Friday afternoon.
Since there’s no Lauren Betts-like force in the paint for Belmont, expect Cotie McMahon to have a big game. The forward scored seven points on Monday, and none inside the paint. Both shots converted came from beyond the arc, plus a free throw. Friday, McMahon will be charging, and spinning, towards the basket. McMahon will score at least 20 points and Ohio State will come away with a victory to take into the eight days without a game that follows.
How to Watch
Date: Friday, Dec. 22, 2023
Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Where: Schottenstein Center, Columbus, Ohio
LGHL Prediction: 75-63 Ohio State Buckeyes
Hello Big Ten
Barring a rough end to the season, Friday is the final non-conference game for the Buckeyes until the NCAA Tournament. This year, Ohio State’s lost two non-conference games, the most since the 19-20 regular season. That campaign, the scarlet and gray dropped four before the start of the Big Ten calendar, losing games to Ohio University, UConn, South Dakota and Stanford.
Fortunately for coach McGuff’s side, the defeats this season shouldn’t hurt too much come tournament time. Both the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans are undefeated, highly ranked, teams.
The Big Ten calendar starts with a trip to rivals up north, the Michigan Wolverines. Then Ohio State stays on the road to tip off the 2024 calendar on Jan. 5, when the Northwestern Wildcats welcome the Buckeyes.