The Ohio State women’s basketball team finishes off a strong, but at times inconsistent 2022-23 season Friday night. Sitting on the opposing bench is the No. 7 Maryland Terrapins. It’s a home game that went the Buckeyes’ way last year, but this season’s been a different story.
Head coach Kevin McGuff’s side faces the Terps four days after they dismantled the No. 6 Iowa Hawkeyes, and one week before the Buckeyes start the Big Ten tournament. It’s a game that isn’t make or break, with an Ohio State double-bye confirmed, but it will go a long way in showing if the Scarlet & Gray are contenders in the postseason.
This season, the Buckeyes started 19-0 before going 4-5 in the next nine games. It was a dip that wasn't too shocking if paying close attention to the first 19 wins.
Ohio State made a living out of comebacks — against the then No. 5 Maryland Terrapins, the then No. 18 Louisville Cardinals and strong mid major side in the University of South Florida Bulls. The thing is, all of those teams are unranked at this point in the season. On paper it was a difficult looking schedule in the preseason that through the year began to deteriorate in strength.
As Ohio State then began playing Big Ten opponents, things changed. A late comeback was needed against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, in Minneapolis. The Buckeyes came back from 17 points down in the third quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini.
So, once the top-10 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes and Indiana Hoosiers began showing up on the schedule, it was more like the truth coming out about the gaps in this season’s Scarlet & Gray. On Friday is another match-up against a team in that top tier of Big Ten talent in the Maryland Terrapins.
On Feb. 5, coach McGuff’s side played arguably its worst game of the season. The shooting wasn’t there and the defense allowed the Terrapins, led by a 29-point and 10 rebound night by guard Diamond Miller, to frankly embarrass Ohio State 90-54.
Friday night is the last opportunity to show that a corner’s been turned for the Buckeyes, and it won’t be easy.
Maryland features a one-two punch of size, speed and defense in Miller and guard Shyanne Sellers. The latter added 19 points and nine rebounds on top of Miller’s team leading performance. Each of the two tall guards can find, or make, space in the paint and find open teammates on the perimeter.
Goodness gracious Diamond pic.twitter.com/6UHhiLuSj8— Maryland Women’s Basketball (@TerpsWBB) February 22, 2023
Catching those passes and making those long range shots is Abby Meyers. The transfer from Princeton University has given the Terrapins a threat from deep. A threat that gets more open as her teammates find shots of their own.
The last time out against the Buckeyes, Meyers had 22 points and six rebounds. Combining Meyers and the two aforementioned guards came at Ohio State at a time similar to a boxer leaning and holding onto the ropes.
Even with guard Jacy Sheldon returning in the loss, Ohio State didn’t look up to the task physically or mentally. The Buckeyes shot their lowest shooting percentage of the season the last time out, hitting only 33.9% of their shots, and not the lowest but still a below average 26.1% from deep.
This time though, Ohio State enters the game with some positive news propelling them. Not only have they won the last two games, including an away trip the Ann Arbor where the Buckeyes handily beating the No. 12 Michigan Wolverines by 13 points, but Thursday night they received another boost.
In the second reveal of the NCAA committee’s top-16 poll, Ohio State received a little bit of safety from losing the right to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament when they moved up four spots from No. 16 to No. 12.
Now good vibes and happy thoughts aren’t going to make Maryland any easier. To have a realistic chance of winning, the Buckeyes need to bring the same intensity they brought to Michigan. That means players going full speed in the full court press, and limiting chances in the paint for Miller especially.
It’s possible too. On Jan. 20, 2022, Ohio State had a marquee victory against Maryland when they still had forward Angel Reese, who’s now a double-double machine for the No. 5 LSU Tigers. This Buckeyes team is better than last year’s too.
On Monday, Ohio State beat a Michigan side without the now pretty regular big contributions on offense from forwards Cotie McMahon and Taylor Thierry. Instead it was guard Rikki Harris propelling the Buckeyes, with guard Taylor Mikesell hitting timely shots early in the game.
Part of the reason for McMahon and Thierry’s limited night was the whistles not going their way. Now, ask McMahon and she’ll say there aren’t enough whistles, she’s said that exact thing, but Monday did seem like the officiating crew being conservative with their calls.
Since the start of 2023, McMahon’s averaged 6.8 trips to the free throw line per game entering Ann Arbor. On Monday she had one attempt total, in the fourth quarter as the Buckeyes put the game firmly away.
The same thing happened on that rough day in College Park, Maryland earlier this month. Should McMahon get closer to that average, it means that she’s attacking the rim and referees are calling fouls that they’ve called consistently all season. The player hasn’t changed, but there seems to be a change to how McMahon’s allowed to be defended.
Get that fire from Monday back on Friday, and possibly a return for guard Jacy Sheldon, and the 36-point defeat can become an even more distant nightmare.
- Even though forward Rebeka Mikulášiková is looking healthier, it'd be no shock if Eboni Walker starts the game and they interchange, especially if offense is needed.
- Last time against Maryland, McMahon had only six points on 3-for-10 shooting.
- Mikesell’s missed her last 11 attempts from inside the arc over the last two games but 7-for-13 from deep.
- Maryland has kept the same lineup the last 17 games, going 15-2 in that span.
- Miller is third in the Big Ten in points per game and fourth in the conference for both steals and blocks per game.
- Sellers leads the Terrapins in field goal percentage hitting 49.7% of her shots.
If the game isn’t close, it’s going to be a Maryland victory. The Terrapins have found strong chemistry with their consistent and healthy lineup. Realistically, nobody on the Buckeyes will be able to stop Miller, unless a double-team is combined with strong movement around the other four players on the court for Maryland.
Ohio State will play better in their transition defense though, not allowing easy strolls to the basket like they did on Feb. 5. The Buckeyes will need to make the most of the turnovers they create and force more than last game’s 15 against the Terps.
The Buckeyes will look more like their undefeated side than their recent form, with more shots falling inside the paint than in games past.
How to Watch
Date: Friday, Feb. 24, 2023
Time: 6:00 p.m. ET
Where: Schottenstein Center, Columbus, Ohio
Stream: Fox Sports app with a BTN subscription
LGHL Score Prediction: 78-74 Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State will honor one basketball playing senior on Friday — guard Taylor Mikesell. It’s the end of a five-year career spent with the Maryland Terrapins, Oregon Ducks and the last two seasons with the Scarlet & Gray.
Mikesell’s absence from the team following the end of the upcoming postseason will leave a hole not only in offense but team leadership. After the Buckeyes’ win over Michigan, Harris shared the team’s intention when it comes to Mikesell.
“T.Mike is one of my closest friends, a great teammate, great person,” said Harris. “It’s her last year, so we want to go out with a bang for her so we’re going to leave it all on the court.”
A bonus in the festivities is that Sheldon and Mikulášiková are both seniors and they aren’t taking part. No official word on their statuses, but it bodes well for next year’s edition of the Buckeyes.