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No. 13 Ohio State women at No. 12 Michigan: Game preview and prediction

Monday is another chapter in a rivalry renewed, with a bonus reward for the winning side.

Ben Cole - Land-Grant Holy Land

The final week of the Ohio State women’s regular season starts tonight in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It’s not only the culmination of a roller coaster season and a rivalry game, but it will also go a long way in deciding who receives a double-bye in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament.

Each side enters with a similar resume, record and injuries, making it one of the more interesting match ups on the conference schedule.


On New Year’s Eve, these two teams met at the Covelli Center in Columbus. The game moved from the Schottenstein Center to the much smaller Covelli Center because of scheduling conflicts, meaning about 7,500 less people could take in the game between OSU and That Team Up North.

In it, it was the Buckeyes coming away with the victory. They accomplished their first ranked win of the conference schedule after overcoming a tough start to the game, shooting 25% on 4-for-16 shooting to open things up.

Even so, Ohio State was down only one point after the first quarter, and put together two big stretches in the second and third quarters. After overcoming some late Michigan comeback energy, the Buckeyes pulled away with the 66-57 victory.

It was a game that, at that point, was the lowest point total scored in a game yet that season for Ohio State. Since then, both sides have gone down similar journeys. Each of the two programs have dropped all their games against the top three in the conference, with the Iowa Hawkeyes, Indiana Hoosiers and Maryland Terrapins separating themselves from the field.

The similarities are in not only performance, but personnel. Ohio State and Michigan are a half game apart in the conference standings, currently with the Buckeyes edging out the Wolverines after playing one more game. They occupy the fourth and fifth spots in the standings, respectively.

To make things easier to understand: if the Scarlet & Gray win against the Maize & Blue, they lock-up the final double-bye spot in the Big Ten standings. If Ohio State loses, they need the Wolverines to drop one of their final two games against either the Wisconsin Badgers or Rutgers Scarlet Knights — not a strong possibility.

That’s also only if the Buckeyes beat the No. 8 Maryland Terrapins in the final game of the regular season on Feb. 24.

It gets even murkier if Ohio State loses to Michigan and Maryland drops both of their final two games against Iowa and the Buckeyes, potentially going down to a third tie-breaker of win-loss percentage of opponents of the tied teams.

But back to Monday.

Lately head coach Kevin McGuff’s team has shown their class against teams in the lower half of the conference, but struggled against the top teams. Michigan is a top team, but they come into the game with a big piece missing in guard Laila Phelia.

On Jan. 29, Phelia left the game after suffering a lower body injury against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. That means 17 points per game are out the window for the Monday’s home team. A similar loss to the Buckeyes likely not having guard Jacy Sheldon for the matchup for the second time this season, playing just once since Nov. 30 in Louisville.

Even with Phelia out, the post presence of Michigan still has the potential of giving the Buckeyes fits. Forwards Emily Kiser and Cameron Williams made things difficult on Dec. 31. The two each grabbed a double-double, with Williams scoring 18 points with 10 rebounds and Kiser scoring 10 points with 10 rebounds. Kiser also did that missing a few game minutes with an injury suffered late in the first quarter.

Then, around the perimeter — and really everywhere on the court — is guard Leigha Brown. Ohio State neutralized Brown slightly in their first match-up of the season, holding her to eight points, but the Wolverines’ leader still had 10 assists in the game.

Brown also adds presence to the paint, making her even more dangerous.

For Ohio State, they’ll need a similar game against Brown and avoid those early shooting woes. The Buckeyes wore the Wolverines down with their press in the first game between the rivals this season, forcing 27 turnovers.

Those changes in possession won’t only limit Michigan’s amount of shots, but get Buckeyes guard Taylor Mikesell more into the scoring. With Sheldon out, opponents know they can leave one person on Mikesell in the half court. Mikesell’s struggled to even get shots away with defenders stuck to the graduate senior for 40 minutes.

Should the press work, Mikesell will have more chances to score, either attacking the basket or a couple quick passes finding a rare open look from deep. If Mikesell or the press can’t get going, the responsibility falls to the other four Buckeyes in the half court. Up to the challenge is freshman forward Cotie McMahon.

In 12 games of the 2023 calendar, McMahon’s averaging 16.1 points per game. Over the last three games, it’s at 21.3 points per game. If the freshman continues that recent run of scoring form, a by-product could be more space on the perimeter.

Projected Lineups

Ohio State

P Name
P Name
G Jacy Sheldon
G Taylor Mikesell
G Taylor Thierry
F Cotie McMahon
F Eboni Walker

Lineup Notes

  • Forward Eboni Walker is the likely starter Monday with Rebeka Mikulášiková still returning fully from a high ankle sprain.
  • Walker’s averaged 11 points and 6.3 rebounds per game since Mikulášiková suffered her injury on Feb. 8 against Minnesota.
  • When Ohio State has lost this year, Rikki Harris averaged 1.7 assists per game, and when the Buckeyes win with Harris starting, she averages 5.6 assists.


P Name
P Name
G Leigha Brown
G Maddie Nolan
G Jordan Hobbs
G Cameron Williams
F Emily Kiser

Lineup Notes

  • Brown averages 17.5 points per game, but its risen to 21.5 points in the last four games since Phelia’s injury.
  • Likely replacement starter Jordan Hobbs averages 4.7 points per game.
  • Michigan’s defense ranks second in the conference, allowing 62.3 points per game.


Monday’s game will have all the feelings of a rivalry game. It’ll be close, scrappy and low scoring. Last game, the Buckeyes needed a big substitute game from guard Hevynne Bristow, scoring 8 points with 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks.

Ohio State will get another strong appearance from the bench, but from Mikulášiková. Sunday, Coach McGuff said it’s leaning towards a third start in a row for Walker. With less pressure on Mikulášiková, she’ll come in and hit a couple threes. They’ll be crucial in a game that’ll end close.

It will look like a game that’s missing Sheldon and Phelia though. Every possession will count until the final buzzer.

How to Watch

Date: Monday, Feb. 20, 2023
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Television: FS1
Stream: Fox Sports App with FS1 subscription

LGHL Prediction: 65-60 Ohio State Buckeyes

Indiana Title Town

For the first time in 40 years, the Indiana women’s basketball team won a conference title. They did it Sunday, after beating the Purdue Boilermakers 83-60. In guard Grace Berger’s final regular season game at Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers sent their in-state rivals home with their second loss since Feb. 5.

Currently it’s a share of the title, with Iowa still staking a claim to at least part of it if they win out, including a huge end to the season when the No. 2 Hoosiers travel to Iowa on Sunday, Feb. 26. It has all the makings of a title game for the Hawkeyes, with Indiana having the chance to hold onto the title firmly on their own with a win.