While the scarlet and gray bettered the green and white the first time the two teams met less than a month ago, will the Spartans learn from previous mistakes or will the Buckeyes play better than that low-scoring game on Jan. 14?
Back in January, the Spartans came to the Schottenstein Center and left with a 70-65 defeat. The Buckeyes, known for a havoc-inducing full court press, forced a season-low eight turnovers from Michigan State. Instead, Ohio State won the day on half court defense.
Head coach Kevin McGuff’s side held the green and white to 65 points, after entering the game scoring 89.9 points per game. The Buckeyes held the Spartans to 37.9% shooting in the win, at the time the lowest percentage of the season.
Since then, the Spartans have seen mixed results. Michigan State beat up the Northwestern Wildcats after the loss to the Buckeyes, but then suffered its worse loss of the Big Ten season, losing by 19 points to the Minnesota Golden Gophers (before the loss of star guard Mara Braun).
In the four games since that lopsided defeat, the Spartans responded.
Michigan State won its next four games by 19.7 points per game, including a 21-point win over the lone team to beat the Buckeyes in the Big Ten schedule, the Michigan Wolverines. Thursday night, it looked like another marquee win for the Spartans at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana.
With 4:38 remaining in the third quarter, a three-point shot by forward Tory Ozment put Sparty up 11 points, but Indiana wasn’t finished. Indiana scored 13 of the last 17 points of the third quarter and outscored the Spartans 28-23 in the final 10 minutes to come away with the home victory.
Now, the Buckeyes, fresh off a 71-47 win over the Golden Gophers, go to East Lansing to take on a side who had a season-shifting win slip through its hands.
Sunday will likely not include anomalies that gave Ohio State the win in the first matchup. For example, junior guard DeeDee Hagemann. In Columbus, the point guard who averages 13.1 points and 5.0 assists per game took 11 shots, but made only one, going 1-for-7 on shots inside the arc, mostly through drives to the basket.
In that scarlet and gray win, Hagemann looked for calls on many of those runs into the paint. That could mean a more aggressive Hagemann on Sunday, willing to take a hit to get to the line. Plus, the guard welcomes the Buckeyes on a four-game run where she’s averaging 15.3 points and 6.0 assists per game, plus a 19-point, 10-assist, double-double in the defeat to the Hoosiers.
Another is deep shooting. Ohio State held Michigan State to 5-for-21 shooting from deep, only the second time all season Sparty hit five or less in a game (both defeats). Credit to the Buckeyes for closing in on players, but there were also clear unlucky bounces. If shots fall at closer to the team’s season average 36.9%, it’ll require more of a shooting response from the scarlet and gray.
Ohio State hasn’t hit 10 three-point shots in a game since the Jan. 21 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes. That doesn’t mean that a poor shooting game would do the Buckeyes in. Far from it, because that isn’t how the Buckeyes defeated the Spartans on Jan. 14.
In Columbus, the scarlet and gray won by out rebounding the Spartans, who shot 11 more times than the Buckeyes in the loss (making one less shot than Ohio State).
The Buckeyes still have to contend with the shooting of Michigan State. Four of the five expected starters can hit shots from deep, meaning getting back on defense and closing down shooters. To do that, starters have to stay on the court.
Shooting guard Celeste Taylor has missed crucial minutes for the Buckeyes of late, picking up four fouls in a game in four of the last seven. Often times, taking Taylor out of the game in the first half after picking up early fouls.
Also, while not foul-induced, forward Taylor Thierry’s been in a lull of late, one that Thursday showed she might be finding her way out. After averaging 6.5 rebounds in the first six games of the 2024 calendar, Thierry’s had 11 in the last four games. However, the guard/forward hybrid was crucial for the Buckeyes in the first half.
Playing 23 minutes, Thierry had three steals and three assists, with all assists coming in the second half. A place where the Buckeyes can hurt the Spartans is in the paint and Thierry can be key in that department for Ohio State.
Defensively though, the paint wasn’t the Buckeyes’ friend back in January against the green and white. Namely in backup guard Ozment. In the defeat, Ozment came off the bench to lead Michigan State in scoring with 18 points. Of those 18, only one was a three-point shot, meaning she found a way to score in the post.
Ohio State’s last three games came against teams strong in the paint, stronger than the Spartans, in Wisconsin forward Serah Williams, Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes and the pair of Mallory Heyer and Sophie Hart in Minnesota. The group of starters Jocelyn Tate, Julia Ayrault and Ozment are formidable, but will the recent run for the Buckeyes put them in a better position in East Lansing?
G- Jacy Sheldon
G- Celeste Taylor
G- Taylor Thierry
F- Cotie McMahon
F- Rebeka Mikulášikova
- Guard Jacy Sheldon’s 12 points against the Minnesota Golden Gophers puts her at 1858 for her career.
- Sheldon leads the Big Ten in steals per game with 2.3.
- Ohio State has three players in the top 15 in the Big Ten in steals: Sheldon, Celeste Taylor (4th) and Taylor Thierry (6th)
G- DeeDee Hagemann
G- Moira Joiner
G- Abbey Kimball
G- Julia Ayrault
F- Jocelyn Tate
- This group of players is likely to start its 21st game together Sunday, going 16-4 in the previous 20 games.
- Junior guard DeeDee Hagemann is one assist away from having 400 in her career.
- Michigan State’s 53 points against the Hoosiers in Thursday’s first half was the highest in a half all season.
Sunday will play out a lot like the first meeting between the sides, except the Buckeyes offense will play better. Shooting from beyond the arc will be improved, and the full court press of Ohio State will play better than on Jan. 14.
Sheldon matches up against a similar style guard in Hagemann, but the graduate senior will get the better of the junior on Sunday, leading the Buckeyes in scoring. Especially from three-point range.
How to Watch
Date: Sunday, February 11, 2024
Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
Where: Breslin Arena, East Lansing, Michigan
LGHL Prediction: 88-79 Ohio State Buckeyes
Sports and Taylor Swift fans all across the country know that Sunday means the Super Bowl. Whether people are there to watch the game, halftime show or commercials, one group missing most of it will be the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes 4:00 p.m. ET tip starts two hours before the Super Bowl kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET. That means the game likely ends near 6:00 p.m. ET, followed by a postgame talk, media and then preparing to fly or bus home.
While the game beats watching hours of pregame coverage for the big game, there are lingering questions why games are scheduled close to the Super Bowl in the first place.