Last season, Ohio State women’s basketball faced the Purdue Boilermakers when it wasn’t in too good of a place. The Buckeyes entered a game against the Iowa Hawkeyes ranked No. 2, with a 19-0 record. After falling to the Hawkeyes, then traveling to Indiana midweek to lose again, Purdue sat on the other side of the stretch, giving the scarlet and gray a potential moment of recovery.
That didn’t happen.
The Boilermakers made an already tough end of 2023’s January month of basketball even harder to swallow, defeating the Buckeyes 73-65. Now, for the first time since that loss, Ohio State and Purdue play again with both teams looking vastly different than this point last season.
Purdue welcomes Ohio State in similar standing to the Illinois Fighting Illini, comparing at a high level.
The Boilermakers, like the Illini, made the NCAA Tournament last season after surprising the Big Ten conference, albeit to early March Madness exits. Now, this season, both teams are fighting to reach a .500 record.
Looking closer at the Boilermakers, its struggles are unique in comparison. Unlike Illinois, the black and old gold of Purdue lost parts of its core to expiring NCAA eligibility, at the end of last season.
Purdue entered the 23-24 campaign without guards Lasha Petree and Cassidy Hardin. Combined the two accounted for 22.2 points per game and brought graduate senior leadership to head coach Katie Gearld's second season in West Lafayette.
Now, this season, the Boilermakers have five upperclassmen and eight underclassmen, six of those freshman. With Coach Gearlds building her program, the names who brought stability in previous seasons are either gone or on their way out. It doesn’t mean Purdue lacks leadership. It still has guard Abbey Ellis.
The Australian graduate senior Ellis is having her best season in the Big Ten in three years. Ellis leads the Boilermakers in scoring and second in assists. Last season, against Ohio State, Ellis had her best game against a Big Ten opponent in her career, scoring 26 points. Ellis did it mostly from beyond the arc, going 5-for-8. That was in a game with Buckeyes’ guard Jacy Sheldon hurt and without Celeste Taylor, who still played for the Duke Blue Devils.
Sheldon and Taylor are a big part of the reason why Ohio State is second in the conference in limiting three-point efficiency. The Buckeyes allow opponents to shoot an average of only 28.2% per game.
It won’t only be Ellis shooting from deep. Stepping into the starting lineup this season is senior guard Madison Layden. The four-year Boilermaker leads the Big Ten and is fourth in the nation shooting 49.4% from three-point range. What makes stopping both of these guards more difficult is who is getting them the ball: Guard Jeanae Terry.
Terry isn’t a huge scoring threat, but the graduate senior has strengths all over the court and has the ability to reach triple-double range. The five-year Big Ten star, spending the first two with Illinois, averages 5.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. Purdue runs through Terry.
The lack of experience compared to Ohio State doesn’t mean the freshman class of Purdue is holding the Boilermakers back. Anything but that.
Sunday highlights the future of Purdue basketball, and it's bright, especially with guard Rashunda Jones and forward Mary Ashley Stevenson.
With Purdue’s experience falling mostly in the guard group, Jones averages 9.5 points per game coming off the bench in 15 games. The No. 79 ranked 2023 prospect is tied with starter Ellis free throws attempted per game, playing 10 fewer minutes per game on average. In other words, Jones gets to the basket.
Stevenson is the likely starting forward in the paint for Coach Gearlds. The 6-foot-2 out of New York brings agility to a more traditional post-up game. Stevenson will dribble around slower forwards to hit layups, turnaround jumpers, and even a hook shot.
Someone who won’t feature is freshman Amiyah Reynolds. The No. 43 prospect of the 2023 class tore her ACL while finishing high school basketball, and is still recovering. Plus, even if she was back, the minutes would be limited. With Sunday being the lone game between the two sides, it’ll be next season before Buckeye fans see Reynolds against the scarlet and gray.
Even without Reynolds, Purdue’s freshman group leads the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 22.0 points per game in conference play.
A key for Ohio State is avoiding being surprised by any of the young talent for Purdue, and avoiding a slip like it had in the second quarter of Thursday’s win at Illinois.
In that record-setting four-point quarter, the Buckeyes offense struggled, hitting two of nine attempted shots. After the game, head coach Kevin McGuff diagnosed the problem as Buckeyes standing around after plays didn’t work. Without hitting shots, the pressing defense couldn’t set, allowing Illinois to get an 11-point lead.
While the scarlet and gray recovered, ultimately winning comfortably with a fourth-quarter comeback, it wasn’t easy for the No. 12 team in the country. Purdue’s shown that it can catch McGuff’s side on a bad day. Especially considering the Boilermakers’ current run.
Ohio State is the last of the toughest six-game stretch of Purdue’s Big Ten season. It began with a loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes and then defeats to the Maryland Terrapins, Penn State Nittany Lions, Indiana Hoosiers, and Michigan State Spartans. That means Boilermakers are looking to stop the bleeding.
G- Jacy Sheldon
G- Celeste Taylor
G- Taylor Thierry
F- Cotie McMahon
F- Rebeka Mikulášikova
- Forward Rebeka Mikulášiková set a career-high in assists in two consecutive games. Thursday, the forward had six against the Fighting Illini after tying her previous record against Iowa.
- Ohio State forced 20 turnovers against the Fighting Illini, the 11th time the Buckeyes forced at least 20 turnovers in a game this season.
- Forward Cotie McMahon leads the Buckeyes in three-point plays with 11 this season. Guard/forward Taylor Thierry is second with six.
G- Jeanae Terry
G- Abbey Ellis
G- Madison Layden
F- Caitlyn Harper
F- Mary Ashley Stevenson
- After coming off the bench in the Boilermakers’ first game of the season, freshman forward Mary Ashley Stevenson has started 18 games in a row.
- Guard Jeanae Terry has two double-doubles this season, and one of them was with rebounds and assists. Terry had 1 point in a win against Southeast Missouri State but added 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
- Purdue is fifth in the Big Ten this season in turnovers, committing 15.8 per game.
Mackey Arena is not an easy place to play, and Purdue’s five-game losing streak has added more motivation for the Boilermakers. That will give the home team a fiery start, but the Buckeyes will pull away.
The scare in Illinois, and lingering loss to the Boilermakers last season, is enough to propel Ohio State to a comfortable victory. Thierry and McMahon will be especially strong going up against a freshman inside the paint, although Stevenson will rebound well against the Buckeyes.
McMahon leads Ohio State in scoring and the Buckeyes extend the winning streak to seven games.
How to Watch
Date: Sunday, January 28, 2024
Time: 2:00 p.m. ET
Where: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Indiana
LGHL Prediction: 81-62 Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State controls its own destiny when it comes to the Big Ten regular season title. Win out and the crown goes to the Buckeyes. Easier said than done with another game against Iowa, a lone matchup against the Hoosiers, and games against the Wolverines, Nittany Lions, and Terrapins. However, the math is in Ohio State’s favor:
Big Ten Women’s Basketball Standings