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Game Preview: No. 20 Ohio State women’s basketball vs. Northwestern

After a rivalry defeat, the Buckeyes look to bounce back in a trip to Evanston.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s far too early in the Ohio State women’s basketball season to say that the Dec. 30 defeat to the Michigan Wolverines is going to sink the Buckeyes’ 2023-24 campaign. However, the loss was indicative of areas of concern for a team with high expectations heading into the second half of the season.

The 2024 calendar starts with a game that favors Ohio State. Can the scarlet and gray capitalize against the Northwestern Wildcats?


Preview

The Buckeyes and Wildcats are predicted to be on opposite sides of the Big Ten standings, but the last week for both teams hasn't been ideal as the two programs suffered especially difficult defeats. Numerically, the Wildcats’ was much worse.

Against the Penn State Nittany Lions, the Wildcats were pounced 95-55. Northwestern gave up the ball 28 times and the Nittany Lions capitalized with 16 more shots than the Wildcats, even without star guard Makenna Marisa, who suffered an injury against the Buckeyes on Dec. 10.

Ohio State’s 69-60 loss looks much more palatable in comparison, but talk to the players and coaches and its a different story. The Buckeyes went three hours north to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and put up their worst offensive performance of the season.

In the 60-point showing, head coach Kevin McGuff’s side shot its worst game from beyond the arc of the year, and it wasn’t due to bad shot selection. Early in the game, Ohio State had open looks, but missed, seemingly giving the Wolverines less to worry about.

Friday, the Buckeyes have a shot at redemption, facing the last place team in the conference when it comes to opponent three-point percentage at 37.2%. If Ohio State continues that trend, it might be because of a return to form for forward Cotie McMahon.

The sophomore McMahon enters Friday in a tough offensive slump. It's the first time in the forward’s short NCAA career where she's scored less than 10 points in a game in four-straight contests. Against Michigan, it was because of foul trouble. McMahon played 17 minutes, scoring five points, grabbing no rebounds and picking up four fouls.

Anyone who’s watched McMahon knows the ability and talent, so it's likely destined to be a short-lived slump. When McMahon’s down, the team has trouble adjusting. Guard Jacy Sheldon has picked up scoring, but was also quiet against Michigan with seven points, although guard Celeste Taylor led the team with a personal scoring high in her partial season with Ohio State.


Projected Lineups

Ohio State

G- Jacy Sheldon
G- Celeste Taylor
G- Taylor Thierry
F- Cotie McMahon
F- Rebeka Mikulášiková

Lineup Notes

  • Should the starting five continue, both Cotie McMahon and forward Taylor Thierry are slated to start their 50th game in a row as Buckeyes.
  • The Buckeyes’ 61.2 points per game allowed is the team’s best defensive season in the 11th year of coach Kevin McGuff at the helm.
  • A win against Northwestern would be Ohio State’s fourth in a row against the Wildcats.

Northwestern

G- Mellanie Daley
G- Casey Harter
G- Caroline Lau
G- Paige Mott
F- Caileigh Walsh

Lineup Notes

  • Northwestern has used five different lineups this season, but kept the projected group in the last three games, going 2-1 with wins over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Temple Owls.
  • Junior forward Caileigh Walsh is having a career season, averaging 12.9 points and grabbing 5.9 rebounds per game — both highs for the third-year Wildcat.
  • The Wildcats have three scorers averaging double figures with Melanie Daley (13.4), Caileigh Walsh (12.9) and Hailey Weaver (10.8).

Prediction

In a game where both sides have added motivation coming off tough defeats, it’ll be Ohio State making the most at the opportunity for redemption. Forwards Caileigh Walsh and Paige Mott will lead the Wildcats in rebounding, but it won’t be another single-digit scoring game for Sheldon and McMahon.

The Buckeyes will hurt the Wildcats in transition, forcing at least 25 turnovers. Those easier looks for McMahon will spur on the sophomore’s return to dominance.


How to Watch

Date: Friday, January 5, 2024
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Where: Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston, Illinois
Stream: B1G+


LGHL Prediction: 82-67 Ohio State Buckeyes


Watching the Standings

The Buckeyes early conference loss to Michigan gives Ohio State it’s first of the season. However, usually the winner of the Big Ten isn't losing too many in-conference.

Only once in the past four years has a team with three or more losses won the regular season title. The team to do that? The Ohio State women's basketball team in the 2021-22 season, where it shared a piece of the conference crown with the Iowa Hawkeyes.

That season, four teams had four losses, but with Covid-19 game cancellations, the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes had 14 wins, compared to 13 for the Maryland Terrapins and Michigan Wolverines.

There are still plenty of difficult games left in the Big Ten schedule, including a marquee matchup at the Schottenstein Center on Jan. 21, when guard Caitlin Clark and Iowa come to Columbus.