A win for Ohio State women’s basketball on Sunday against a tough Michigan State Spartans team showed a side that’s finding things out about itself at the right time. Now, with 13 games remaining in the regular season, the scarlet and gray have a week that begins with a deceptive away game and a season-defining home contest to round it out.
It begins Wednesday, when the Buckeyes head east for the first of two regular season games against the Maryland Terrapins. This time away from Columbus, in a matchup that has “trap game” written all over it with guard Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes on the schedule four days later.
Sunday is a game full of intrigue and national spotlight, but before anyone gets there, Ohio State goes to an arena it hasn’t won in since Jan. 2, 2016; Against a team who, despite graduations and injuries, poses a threat to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is winning games in different ways. The Buckeyes defense held a Sparty team entering Sunday averaging 89.9 points per game to only 65. That might make someone think “yeah, that full court press is dangerous.” It is, but it wasn’t the source of the scarlet and gray’s power in the entertaining home win.
Actually, it was lowest forced turnovers for the season with Michigan State giving the ball up only nine times. Instead, half court defense and team basketball won the day.
The Buckeyes out-rebounded the Spartans, grabbing 40 rebounds in a game for only the third time this season (all Ohio State victories). Also, half court defense held Michigan State to its lowest shooting percentage day of the 2023-24 calendar.
Wednesday, Ohio State will have to win differently against Maryland because of junior guard Shyanne Sellers. In her third season under head coach Brenda Frese, Sellers is playing her best basketball. Part of the reason is the graduation of guards Diamond Miller and Abby Meyers, who both left for the WNBA following impressive NCAA careers.
The other reason? Sellers is one of the best players in the Big Ten.
At 6-foot-2, the guard from Aurora, Ohio can do it all. Sellers leads the Terrapins in points (16.7), rebounds (5.9) and assists (5.3). On one afternoon, Sellers is leading the team scoring 28 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Then the next she’s taking a more subdued scoring role and having a 10-assist game.
Sellers has the ability to move with the ball, off the ball and find her open teammates whenever the defense can’t help but give the guard extra attention. She’s been the catalyst for Maryland’s successful season, considering all the team lost in the offseason.
The 11-5 Terrapins fell out of the AP rankings this season for the first time since the end of the 2009-10 season, but those five losses also feature games against the UConn Huskies, South Carolina Gamecocks and a pair of impressive Big Ten teams in the Spartans and Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Maryland’s improving as the team adjusts to a roster turnover leaving only 50.4% of this year’s scoring coming from players who played for coach Frese last season. Where the Terrapins still need to grow is who steps up regularly alongside Sellers?
Lately it’s been sophomore guard Bri McDaniels. After playing less than 10 minutes a game last season, and never starting as a freshman for Frese, McDaniels proved herself to her coach to earn a starting role for the Terrapins.
Since joining the starting lineup nine games ago, McDaniels is putting up Sellers-like numbers. The Chicago, Illinois native averages 14.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Plus, she’s starting to find her three-point shot. In a 22-point win against Purdue, McDaniel had a career high 25 points, including going 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.
The Buckeyes have played well against three-point shooters, holding teams to only 27.5% shooting from deep so far this season. However, the Terrapins can hurt Ohio State where they’re most vulnerable: In the paint.
Sunday, against a Michigan State team who plays practically a group of five guards, did bring in 6-foot-1 forward Tory Ozment off the bench. The forward made the Buckeyes pay. Ozment led the Spartans with 18 points, 12 coming inside the paint. Ozment did it by getting past the Ohio State defense, into one-on-one situations. Maryland has players who can perform similarly.
In that win over Purdue, graduate senior forward, and transfer from NC State in the offseason, Jakia Brown-Turner turned the Boilermakers lax defense in the paint into a 7-for-7 performance from the floor. Brown-Turner had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Terrapins, 10 of those points coming off layups.
Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff instills into his team to focus on the task at hand, but Sunday’s shadow looms large. A win against Iowa puts the Buckeyes back to where it started the beginning of the season, as one of the top teams in the country. However, a loss to Maryland Wednesday wouldn’t be helping the scarlet and gray’s cause.
G- Jacy Sheldon
G- Celeste Taylor
G- Taylor Thierry
F- Cotie McMahon
F- Rebeka Mikulášiková
- Forward Rebeka Mikulášiková had an important second half for the Buckeyes on Sunday, scoring eight points and grabbing three rebounds. Mikulášiková was especially physical on the boards, fighting for all three rebounds in the final 20 minutes.
- Sunday’s win was the 100th career start for guard Jacy Sheldon, who’s played all five seasons with the Buckeyes.
- Five blocks for guard Celeste Taylor against the Spartans on Sunday is a career single game high for the graduate senior.
G- Bri McDaniel
G- Shyanne Sellers
G- Brinae Alexander
F- Allie Kubek
F- Jakia Brown-Turner
- Tuesday, Maryland shared that freshman guard Riley Nelson is out for the rest of the season. Nelson averaged 14.5 minutes per game, providing important production from the bench.
- Guard Shyanne Sellers averages far below averages when facing the Buckeyes, scoring eight points and grabbing four rebounds per game. The outlier is a 19-point performance against Ohio State in a rough day for the scarlet and gray last February, losing in Maryland 90-54.
- Guard/forward Faith Masonius started all 35 games for the Terrapins last season, but has moved to a bench role for coach Frese this season. The graduate senior averages 6.8 points per game, only .1 less than last season in the starting lineup.
Maryland’s offense is a lot like Michigan State. The Terrapins try and score quickly into the shot clock, unless it's late and they’re trying to secure a lead. With no dominant interior threat like Ohio State has struggled against this year, the Buckeyes will have a better game against the Terrapins than they did last February.
Forward Rebeka Mikulášiková will have a good three-point shooting performance for Ohio State, opening up the rest of the team.
The Buckeyes will get that elusive win in Maryland, only the third in crab country in 20 games all-time (minus two wins that were vacated by Ohio State).
How to Watch
Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2024
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: XFINITY Center, College Park, Maryland
LGHL Prediction: 73-68 Ohio State Buckeyes
Way-Too-Early Look at Standings
With all Big Ten teams now playing at least a handful of games, it's time to see where everyone stands.
No shock that the Iowa Hawkeyes are top of the standings with no losses in seven Big Ten games — the biggest being Saturday’s game against the Indiana Hoosiers. Iowa dismantled the reigning regular season champions 84-57, putting separation not only in the standings but in the conversation surrounding the conference.
It’s too early to look at scenarios, but the Buckeyes do play the Hawkeyes once. If the dream scenario for Ohio State fans comes to life and the scarlet and gray win both matchups, it makes the Big Ten title race as exciting as advertised.
Big Ten Women’s Basketball Standings