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Game Preview: No. 8 Ohio State women’s basketball vs. No. 10 Indiana

Mackenzie Holmes makes her final trip to Columbus, while Buckeyes try to prove Iowa win wasn’t an isolated incident

NCAA Womens Basketball: Indiana at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Ohio State women’s basketball defeated the Indiana Hoosiers in Columbus, it was Jan 10, 2019. Due to sanctions, that win doesn’t count for the Buckeyes, making the last official win against the scarlet and gray’s neighbors to the West back in January of 2016. Does that streak end Sunday?

That’s what the Buckeyes are hoping, welcoming the Hoosiers to the Schottenstein Center for a matchup between two top-10 teams in the country. Will a more defensive side like Ohio State fair well against one of the best shooting teams in the nation?


Preview

How good is Indiana’s offense? The team’s overall 51.5% overall field goal percentage is the best in the Big Ten and third in the nation. It all goes through forward Mackenzie Holmes.

The Maine native and career Hoosier is an agile, yet physical, big who can hurt teams in and outside of the paint. At 6-foot-3, Holmes plays the five position for head coach Teri Moren, who uses Holmes inside the paint and the remaining four guards moving all around the perimeter.

Defending Indiana is a “pick your poison” decision: Leave Holmes in one-on-one matchups in the paint and try and slow dangerous outside shooting, or put two on Holmes and hope that the Hoosiers miss, or you’re fast enough to make up a lot of ground quickly.

In the past two seasons, Holmes’ knees have dealt the graduate senior issues, but this year the soon-to-be professional is healthy and leading Indiana in scoring and rebounding, per the usual. Ohio State fans are well versed in Holmes, who’s played against the Buckeyes in eight previous games, winning five of the eight.

For Ohio State, there isn’t anyone who can go one-on-one with Holmes completely. Forward Taylor Thierry is athletic and can put up a fight, but the movement of Holmes isn’t easy to predict. Also, any of the fives who head coach Kevin McGuff will employ will have defensive issues. Offensively though, starting forward Rebeka Mikulášiková can draw Holmes out for the Buckeyes’ offense to find any space.

The likely response is having one on Holmes, with another joining the fray if the ball goes the forward’s way. That’s only one dimension, as Hoosier guards can all provide a spark, and leaving them open causes problems.

Leading the way offensively for the guards is Sara Scalia. The graduate senior shooting guard won’t waste time shooting if the ball comes her way on the wing, and defense gives her space. Averaging 15.5 points per game, Scalia enters Sunday scoring at least 20 points in three of her last four games, making up for the loss of Sydney Parrish.

Parrish suffered a foot injury and is “day-to-day,” although she’s seen wearing a boot after missing the last three games for Indiana. That’s left Coach Moren with sophomore Lexus Bargesser filling in for Parrish, but isn't the same player. Parrish is the best rebounding guard on the team, and puts in work defensively. The inexperienced Bargesser will grab rebounds and provide assists, but hasn’t scored much, with nine points in one game, and none in the other two starts.

Then there’s point guard Chloe Moore-McNeil and 6-foot-3 guard Yarden Garzon. Moore-McNeil took the point role after the graduation of Grace Berger, who now plays for the Indiana Fever of the WNBA. If Ohio State is going to let any of the starting guards shoot, it’s Moore-McNeil, who’s known for her defensive ability and not lights out shooting.

Garzon is a sophomore who lit the Buckeyes up last season, having the best game of her young NCAA career with 20 points and 10 rebounds when the scarlet and gray traveled to Indiana. This year though, the guard is having something of a sophomore slump but still averaging 11.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.

While Indiana’s offense is dangerous, it doesn’t mean its unbeatable. After all, the Hoosiers have lost, and one of those games gives a glimpse into how it's done.

Against the Iowa Hawkeyes, on Jan. 13, the Hoosiers fell to superstar Caitlin Clark, and fell hard. Iowa won 84-57, forcing 15 turnovers from Indiana. That was with a healthy starting lineup too.

Should Ohio State have its havoc-inducing press find its stride, Indiana can come apart. The Buckeyes did that in the 2023 Big Ten Tournament, coming back after going down 24 points, forcing 18 turnovers from the Hoosiers. Ohio State scored 21 points off turnovers that day and now the scarlet and gray defense is better.

In that Iowa defeat, Garzon gave up the ball six times for Indiana. Plus, an inexperienced underclassmen like Bargesser or freshman Lenée will get extended minutes against the first team of Ohio State. The power of Indiana’s starting five drops when bench players get into the game, not matching up well against the likes of redshirt senior Buckeye backup guards Madison Greene and Rikki Harris.

The starting guard trio of Jacy Sheldon, Celeste Taylor and Thierry, along with forward Cotie McMahon, will have their hands full, but have shown this year that it can be done. Plus, any of the four have the defensive ability to double up with Mikulášiková, Taiyier Parks and Eboni Walker in the paint against Holmes.

Speaking of McMahon, the Ohio State sophomore’s been everything for the Buckeyes since the calendar change to 2024. McMahon enters Sunday with four double-doubles in a row, and was two assists shy from her first triple-double, against Purdue.

The forward will go up against Holmes for rebounds throughout the game, and can take some away from the Hoosier. Against the 6-foot-4 Wisconsin forward Serah Williams, McMahon grabbed only one less rebound than the taller Williams, with McMahon’s physicality and pure desire taking some away from the stronger post player. McMahon will also still find ways to get to the basket.

What will make or break the game for the Buckeyes is how its offense plays against Indiana. While offense is important for any team to win, the experience of four of the five likely Hoosier starters means they can play more one-on-one. Should Moren use more zone looks on defense, it will welcome the evolving game of McMahon to drive and dish or find open teammates. The shots of those teammates need to fall.

Since hitting 11-for-22 from beyond the arc against the Iowa Hawkeyes, the Buckeyes’ three-point shooting is down big. In the three games that have followed, Ohio State is shooting 29.5% from deep. A one-dimensional offense can beat teams like the Illinois Fighting Illini and Wisconsin Badgers, but the Buckeyes will need more against Indiana.


Ohio State

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

Lineup Notes

  • Guard Jacy Sheldon has 1,821 points in her NCAA career, all with Ohio State. To achieve that in the regular season, the guard has to average at least 22.4 points per game. That reduces to 17.9 per game if the Buckeyes play once in the Big Ten tournament and once in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Against the Wisconsin Badgers, the Buckeyes tied a season high with 26 assists in the 87-49 victory.
  • Ohio State has the best defensive rating in the Big Ten, allowing 83.6 points per 100 possessions.

Indiana

G- Chloe Moore-McNeil
G- Sara Scalia
G- Lexus Bargesser
G- Yarden Garzon
F- Mackenzie Holmes

Lineup Notes

  • Forward Mackenzie Holmes is 58 points away from securing the Indiana women’s basketball record for career points. Holmes sits with 2,306 career points.
  • Indiana’s overall shooting is first in the Big Ten and third in the nation, hitting shots with 51.5% efficiency.
  • Guard Sara Scalia’s 63 threes is the second most in the conference, behind guard Caitlin Clark.

Prediction

Missing Sydney Parrish is a tough loss, plus its the first time Indiana faces Ohio State without Berger. That gives the Buckeyes an advantage with a stronger defensive guard group over a stronger Hoosiers offensive guard group.

The scarlet and gray are able to force turnovers against the Hoosiers, disrupting the Indiana offense. Plus, the increased attendance will put the Buckeyes into better shooting form, for a team that seems to grow when more eyes are watching.

Thierry is the x-factor for Ohio State, becoming the outlet to compete with Holmes in the paint, offensively. It’s a close game but the Buckeyes come away with another marquee victory, despite going down against the Hoosiers for a spell of the first half.


How to Watch

Date: Sunday, February 4, 2024
Time: 12:00 p.m. ET
Where: Schottenstein Center, Columbus, Ohio
Television: FS1
Stream: Fox Sports App


LGHL Prediction: 78-75 Ohio State Buckeyes


Taylor Mikesell Signs with Los Angeles

Last WNBA season, the Indiana Fever drafted former Ohio State shooting guard Taylor Mikesell. Although the guard didn’t make the opening day roster, getting cut in the offseason, Mikesell landed with the Atlanta Dream, making six appearances before getting released.

Now Mikesell joins with a training camp contract to make the cut on the Los Angeles roster, a team that’s going through a rebuild.