Ohio State women’s basketball is at the midway point of the conference schedule, with nine Big Ten games in the rearview mirror and nine more approaching. Up first, starting a two-game streak of home games, are the Wisconsin Badgers. Sitting at 10-9, the Badgers under third year head coach Marisa Moseley are a team full of youth and potential.
Will that potential be enough to take advantage of the Buckeyes, who have a Sunday matchup against the No. 10 Indiana Hoosiers on the horizon?
Last week was a good one for the Badgers. First, Wisconsin won a rivalry game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers — its third in a row against Minnesota. This year was more of a surprise than the last two, with the Golden Gophers entering the game with a 12-4 record, compared to the then 8-9 Badgers.
Then, a home win against the Scarlet Knights, which is not exactly a monumental program moment with Rutgers winless in Big Ten play. However, following the two victories, two Badgers received honors for their work on the court.
For Wisconsin forward Serah Williams, it’s a reward she could win most weeks if not for the existence of Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark. The Badgers sophomore had two double-doubles in the victories, and enters Thursday’s game against the Buckeyes with six double-doubles in a row.
The member of the Big Ten All-Freshman Team went from rising freshman to leading the Badgers. Williams is a terror in the post, scoring 17.9 points (third most in the Big Ten) and adding 10.4 rebounds (second in the Big Ten) per game. She is the type of player which Ohio State is known to struggle against.
A reason for the increased scoring for Williams, up from 12.7 points per game as a freshman, is that the Badgers need her to shoot more often. Williams had to fill the gap of Czech guard Julie Pospíšilová, who led Wisconsin in scoring two of her four years in the NCAA, and then-freshman Maty Wilke, who left the program after only one season to go west to Utah.
In 17 games this season, Williams is averaging 1.4 more shots per game, plus the occasional attempt from beyond the arc. Another reason is the overall youth of Coach Moseley’s side. Wisconsin has three seniors, and the remaining 11 rostered players are underclassmen (with five freshmen).
Williams also leads the conference in blocks, with 3.1 per game, meaning a potentially difficult game for shorter Buckeyes players going to the basket, like fellow sophomore Cotie McMahon and graduate senior Jacy Sheldon.
Serah now tied for 7th all time in blocks after just 48 career games pic.twitter.com/ZYHKWPtJ0e— Wisconsin Women’s Basketball (@BadgerWBB) January 27, 2024
Wisconsin’s other individual accolade from the dual victory week is connected to Central Ohio. Freshman guard Tessa Grady went north to the Badgers following a standout amateur high school career at the same high school as Sheldon: Dublin Coffman High School in Dublin, Ohio.
Grady followed her brother’s recruiting journey, joining Wisconsin after inside linebacker Griffin Grady played with the Badgers from 2016-2020. The shooting guard chose Wisconsin after securing the No. 1 prospect ranking for her position in Ohio.
In her first nine appearances of the season, Grady played five minutes per game and averaged 1.8 points. However, since the new year began, the freshman is earning meaningful minutes for Coach Moseley off the bench. In Grady’s last five appearances, the guard averages 15 minutes and 8.0 points per game.
Her most impressive outing came in the rivalry game against Minnesota. That’s when Grady was second in scoring to only Williams on the day, hitting 5-for-11 three-point shots and collecting 15 points on the night. Although Grady played at the same school as Sheldon, the Ohio State guard has been in the Buckeyes program since the 2019-20 season. The two will get more acquainted Thursday.
The advantage around the perimeter leans towards the guard trio of Sheldon, Celeste Taylor and Taylor Thierry, defensively, but the Buckeyes struggles of late come from the offensive side of the court.
Ohio State’s last two games featured 29.5% shooting from beyond the arc. Early in games, the Buckeyes try open threes, thanks to defensive zones, but have to abandon it and try to win inside the paint. While McMahon has been up to the task lately, the offense of the scarlet and gray loses a dimension when shots aren’t falling — an issue that needs improvement before the No. 10 Indiana Hoosiers come to Columbus on Sunday.
Fortunately for Coach McGuff and the Buckeyes is that the fifth worst shooting efficiency from deep in the conference is facing a Badgers team last in three-point shooting. Wisconsin averages 28.9% shooting from three-point range and ranks 14th in overall shooting, hitting 40.8% of shots taken.
While that bodes well for Ohio State, any good momentum heading into Sunday will contribute to a game that will impact who wins the Big Ten regular season title.
G- Jacy Sheldon
G- Celeste Taylor
G- Taylor Thierry
F- Cotie McMahon
F- Rebeka Mikulášikova
- There’s no signs of a change to the lineup for Ohio State. The lone instance where the five above didn’t start was when forward Rebeka Mikulášiková missed the Jan. 5 game against the Northwestern Wildcats due to injury.
- Sunday, against the Purdue Boilermakers, forward Cotie McMahon was two assists away from a triple-double, scoring 10 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and creating eight assists.
- After receiving a knock early in the first quarter against Purdue, guard/forward Taylor Thierry played only 24 minutes for Ohio State. Thierry added 14 points, but had no rebounds after averaging 6.5 per game in the first 19 games of the season.
G- Ronnie Porter
G- Sania Copeland
G- Natalie Leuzinger
G- Brooke Schmarek
F- Serah Williams
- Forward Serah Williams led the Big Ten in blocks last season with 58. With nine games remaining in the regular season, Williams already has 54 blocks, averaging 3.1 per game.
- Sophomore guard Ronnie Porter, who averaging 6.8 minutes per game as a freshman, averages 34.7 per game this season, starting every game for head coach Marisa Moseley.
- Wisconsin sits at the bottom of the Big Ten in scoring this season, averaging 64.5 points per game.
With Wisconsin’s roster offering promise in future seasons, Ohio State shouldn’t have any problem dispatching the Badgers. Williams will get a double-double, but the supporting cast won’t thrive against the Buckeyes.
Ohio State will have a better scoring day, going up against a more inexperienced guard group, with three-point shooting looking better than it has over the past two away games for Coach McGuff’s side.
The Buckeyes will push ahead in the third quarter and not look back.
How to Watch
Date: Thursday, February 1, 2024
Time: 6:00 p.m. ET
Where: Schottenstein Center, Columbus, Ohio
Stream: Fox Sports App
LGHL Prediction: 85-63 Ohio State Buckeyes
Now an annual tradition, the Buckeyes will don pink for Thursday’s game against the Badgers. At halftime, the crowd will honor those fighting cancer, those who beat it and the people who support or have lost those that’ve suffered.
In past iterations of the pink game, Ohio State and its opponents wear pink.
The Northeast and Northwest entrances of the Schottenstein Center will have pink pom-poms for the first 5,000 fans in attendance, plus the first 200 students. Also, the folks who help fans find seats and also protect players, the red coats, will be appreciated during the game as well.