The Ohio State women’s basketball team has had a tough go as of late. After a 19-0 start to the season, the Buckeyes have dropped four of six games. Part of that downfall was a defeat on Jan. 26 against the Indiana Hoosiers.
On Monday, Ohio State and Indiana return to the court in opposite positions. It’s now the Hoosiers coming in as the No. 2 side against the No. 13 Buckeyes. It’s not only another game between two top-15 Big Ten teams, but a chance for the Scarlet & Gray to get back to where they were before the last week of January sent the season in a different direction.
Although this edition of the game is at home for the Buckeyes, it’s arguably a more difficult matchup than almost three weeks ago. That’s because Ohio State faces an Indiana team who’s hitting their stride even better than they were in January.
Indiana is fresh off a program record conference play crowd witnessing IU take down the No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes. On the court of Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers neutralized center Monika Czinano, forcing guard Caitlin Clark to try and win the game alone, unsuccessfully.
On the other side, the Buckeyes are 2-2 since their loss to the Hoosiers. Outside of lopsided wins over the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Wisconsin Badgers, Ohio State lost to an unranked Purdue Boilermakers and continued struggles against top-10 ranked conference opponents.
Ohio State’s struggles culminated on Feb. 5 in a trip to College Park, Maryland. Against the No. 8 Terrapins, the Buckeyes lost by a season-high 34 point deficit. Never in the 40 minutes did the Scarlet & Gray look up to the challenge of guard Diamond Miller and the Terps. Now, it’s another game against center Mackenzie Holmes’ Hoosiers.
“She’s one of the best post players in the country,” said head coach Kevin McGuff. “So, we certainly have our hands full.”
On Jan. 26, Holmes led all scorers with 26 points, although Ohio State did well to keep her out of a strong rebounding night. Even so, Holmes’ four rebounds were made up for through guards Sydney Parrish and Yarden Garzon’s 21 combined boards.
Holmes hurts the Buckeyes the way she has since she joined the Hoosiers: inside the paint. The Scarlet & Gray haven’t had an answer for Holmes since the start of last season and now Indiana’s gotten stronger around her, creating one of the most well-balanced teams in the country.
That. Cut. @kenzieholmes_ | #IUWBB pic.twitter.com/XnospeVU1f— Indiana Women’s Basketball (@IndianaWBB) February 10, 2023
Indiana features point guard Grace Berger, who moved into the one-spot in her senior season this year. Berger leads IU with 5.6 assists per game, which would be the fifth-highest in the Big Ten if not for missing nine games of the season due to a knee injury.
Berger not only finds Holmes, who shoots strong inside the paint but can move throughout the arc and hit midrange jumpers, but a trio of offensive threats on the perimeter.
This summer, head coach Teri Moren added three players — two from the transfer market and one incoming freshman. They’re Parrish, an Oregon Ducks transfer, freshman Yarden Garzon and former Minnesota Golden Gopher Sara Scalia.
Garzon was especially dangerous in the matchup in Bloomington, Indiana. The Israeli National Team guard had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Garzon hit four threes and also had three steals, with two turning into fastbreak points. Those turnovers were crucial in Indiana’s win against a Buckeyes team who outscored Indiana for three quarters, but fell hard in the third quarter.
The Buckeyes turned the ball over six times in the third quarter, with Indiana 7-0 in fastbreak points and 13-0 in points off turnovers. Ohio State’s six points is the second lowest total they’ve scored in a quarter all season.
“Hopefully we can bottle what we did in those three quarters in Bloomington and apply it to Monday night’s game, is what I’m hoping,” said head coach Kevin McGuff.
However, Ohio State might not have the same people available to play those three strong quarters. A potential absence for Monday is forward Rebeka Mikulášiková. The Slovakian suffered a high ankle sprain halfway through the first quarter of Wednesday’s win against Minnesota.
On Friday, Mikulášiková told the coaching staff she was good to go for Monday, but nothing’s official until after weekend practice and McGuff and the Buckeyes can see what she does on the court. Although, Mikulášiková didn’t affect the last game in Indiana as much as the team needed, scoring three points and grabbing four rebounds.
If the injury does keep Mikulášiková out, it’ll be up to transfer forward Eboni Walker. Walker played 25 minutes, scoring 12 points and dishing six assists. All a Buckeye career high from the former Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year honoree. When Ohio State was effective against Holmes on Jan. 26, it was when Walker was on the court. Walker had seven rebounds in the game, good for second best on the Scarlet & Gray in the defeat.
Another injury discussion is around guard Jacy Sheldon. Will she return? Against Maryland, Sheldon made her long awaited return after not playing since Nov. 30 due to a foot injury. Buckeye fans were surprised on Wednesday when Sheldon didn’t suit up for the game against Minnesota, but that was by design. On Saturday, coach McGuff gave more detail about why Sheldon didn’t play.
“She’s chomping at the bit to play,” said McGuff. “She’s still day to day because I’m watching her move and I’ll just be frank, I didn’t think she was moving like she normally does, when she’s healthy at Maryland, so I kind of took a step back and said ‘hey, I just want to make sure we’re doing the right thing here.’”
Fans and the Buckeyes all want Sheldon back at 100%, but McGuff is still worried more about making sure Sheldon doesn’t aggravate her injury, and still with the mindset that they get Sheldon ready for the stretch run. Although the end of the regular season is coming quickly, next Friday against the Maryland Terrapins.
A win for Ohio State against Indiana could still happen without Sheldon. The Minnesota win showed that the Buckeyes can hit shots, after a cold spell came as the winter months blew in. The more players like guard Rikki Harris and forwards Taylor Thierry and Cotie McMahon hit their shots, the more space guard Taylor Mikesell will have to work with against the Hoosiers.
In the last outing, McMahon led the Buckeyes in scoring and made things especially difficult for Indiana in the first half. The freshman had 18 of her 21 points in the game in the first two periods, with the Hoosiers finally adjusting to her attacking style in the second half.
If McMahon gets started like that again, and her teammates hit shots, there’s no telling what could happen.
- Thierry is third in the Big Ten in field goal percentage at 64.9% and has scored double-figures in nine games in a row.
- McMahon leads the Buckeyes with 119 free throws this season, hitting 68.9% of her shots.
- Buckeyes 83.1 points per game is the second-highest in the conference.
- Holmes leads the conference in shooting percentage (69%) and second in points per game (22.1).
- Indiana has the best defense in the Big Ten, allowing 60.3 points per game.
- Berger had her best game of the season last week, against Iowa, with 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
With the ability of Indiana, and how they’ve grown as a unit this season, it’s difficult to see a Buckeyes victory. Something going Ohio State’s way is that they don’t have to play in front of a crowd of over 10,000 who are against them, like the Buckeyes did in Bloomington.
However, Indiana is the better team on Monday. If Mikulášiková is out, Walker will play well against Holmes, with Thierry part of that coverage too. But Walker can’t play 40 minutes, and the lack of depth will be difficult for Ohio State to overcome.
The Buckeyes will shoot better than they did in the third quarter against Indiana in January, but it won’t be enough to overcome Indiana. It’ll be a closer game than last month, but the same result.
How to Watch
Date: Monday, Feb. 13, 2023
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Schottenstein Center, Columbus, Ohio
Television: Big Ten Network
Stream: Fox Sports app with Big Ten Network subscription
LGHL Prediction: 78-72 Indiana Hoosiers
Big Growth in Big Ten
From the Buckeyes’ sellout against the Iowa Hawkeyes to Indiana selling over 13,000 tickets for an upcoming rivalry game against Purdue, the popularity and growth of Big Ten women’s basketball can’t be ignored.
“It’s amazing what some of the conference schools are doing in terms of attendance,” said McGuff. “The league is as good as its ever been in terms of the depth so there are great games and great programs all around and I’m just really happy that people are out and supporting women’s basketball like that in the Big Ten.”
Ohio State is hoping for some of that on Monday, too. While there’s no word yet on attendance numbers, another sellout could help the Buckeyes against a tough opponent like Indiana.
This season, the Buckeyes’ attendance is on the rise, averaging 5,622 per game. That’s the highest it’s been in four seasons. With games against Indiana and Maryland at home to finish the home regular season, there’s a strong chance for it to rise even further.