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No. 12 Maryland women’s basketball vs. Ohio State preview

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The Terps head to Columbus after a humbling loss versus No. 8 Michigan.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

After suffering a bitter defeat to No. 8 Michigan this weekend at Xfinity Center, No. 12 Maryland women’s basketball heads to Columbus for a matinee matchup with Ohio State.

The Terps are 4-2 in conference play and 12-5 overall following the loss to the Wolverines in which Michigan guard Madie Nolan’s seven threes put the game out of reach. Thursday’s contest will be a difficult one; Ohio State has spent most of the season as a top-25 team, although the Buckeyes dropped out of the most recent AP Poll.

Associate head coach Karen Blair will lead the Terps against the Buckeyes while head coach Brenda Frese is with her family following the passing of her father, Bill.

“Our job now is to make the Frese family proud,” Blair said. “Bill was a guy that packed his lunch pail every day and he went to work. That’s what he’s instilled in his children and that’s why Brenda has built this program at Maryland to be a family. Our focus is to honor that legacy.”

“For us,” Blair said, “we’re playing for something bigger than ourselves right now in this moment.”

The contest versus Ohio State is set for Thursday with a 6 p.m. tipoff at Value City Arena and will air on the Big Ten Network.

Ohio State Buckeyes (13-3, 5-2 Big Ten)

2020-21 record: 13-7 (9-7 Big Ten)

Head coach Kevin McGuff is in his ninth season in charge of Ohio State. Since taking over as the program’s eighth coach in 2013, McGuff has a 181–87 (.675) record in Columbus. Throughout his career in central Ohio, McGuff has led his team to four NCAA Tournament appearances from 2015 to 2018.

During the 2016-17 campaign, Ohio State finished as the conference regular-season champion. The following year, McGuff’s team was the conference regular season and conference tournament champion. Last season, the Buckeyes did not compete in March Madness due to a self-imposed ban stemming from inappropriate conduct and communications of former Assistant coach Patrick Klein, who resigned in August 2019.

Before taking charge of the Buckeyes, McGuff spent nine years at Xavier University (214-73) and two years at the University of Washington (41-26). His career record as a coach is 426-184, good for a .698 win percentage.

Players to know

Jacy Sheldon, junior guard, 5-foot-10, No. 4 — Through 16 games, Sheldon not only leads her team with 20.4 points, 3.4 assists and two steals per game, but the Ohio native is also the fourth-highest scorer in the Big Ten and 15th-best scorer in DI. Sheldon also is dangerously close to joining the esteemed 50/40/90 club; this season, the junior guard has a 55/44/85 stat line. Sheldon also earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors a season ago.

Taylor Mikesell, senior guard, 5-foot-11, No. 24 — If Sheldon is scorer 1A for the Buckeyes, Mikesell is 1B. Averaging 18.4 points and 3.5 rebounds a night, Mikesell is an elite three-point shooter, knocking down 48% of her attempts from behind the arc. What’s more, not only are Mikesell’s 134 three-point field goal attempts first in the Big Ten, she also holds the best percentage in the conference. The former Terp (2018-20), who transferred to Ohio State from Oregon this season, also has a case to be a 50/40/90 member, with shooting percentages of 47/48/89.

“She’s such a good player,” guard Katie Benzan said of Mikesell. “We’re excited for the competition, to play against her. It’ll be fun.”

Rebeka Mikulášiková, junior forward, 6-foot-4, No. 23 — In her junior season with the Buckeyes, Mikulášiková has blossomed into a reliable third option behind Sheldon and Mikesell. Mikulášiková is averaging 10.9 points and leads the team with 6.4 rebounds per game. The Slovakia international also is only one of three players — along with Sheldon and Mikesell — to start every game this year.

Strength

Offense. With two of the division's top scorers on its roster, Ohio State leads the Big Ten in scoring (83.6), field goal percentage (48.2) and three-point percentage (40.1). The only place the Buckeyes struggle is at the line — the team collectively makes just 71.4 of its free-throw attempts, which is eighth in the division.

“They lead the conference in points per game and the three-point percentage, so it’s one of the things that we’ve been constantly working on,” Blair said on limiting Ohio State from deep. “It’s just something that we’ve been focusing on and working on our defense and just trying to be really intentional about cleaning it up.”

Weakness

Depth. If a team can manage to limit Sheldon and Mikesell to below their averages — or keep them close to it — the rest of the team has struggled to support its leading scorers. In its two conference losses to No. 6 Indiana and No. 8 Michigan, Ohio State’s two-headed monster combined for 38 and 51 points, respectively. The rest of the team put up 28 and 20 points in those losses.

Three things to watch

1. Which team will win the three-point battle? It’s not often a team has a more potent three-point shooter than Katie Benzan, but Ohio State breaks the mold. Mikesell is just one of seven players with a better shooting percentage from deep than Benzan. Ohio State also has a better team percentage than Maryland, the fifth-best team from deep.

2. How will No. 12 Maryland look after a tough loss? This season, aside from the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship, every time Maryland has lost a game, the team rebounds and wins its next match. After suffering a 20-point loss at home against Michigan this past weekend, the Terps will be looking to refocus and best a talented Ohio State squad hoping to hand Maryland a loss for the second straight year.

“I don’t think we could wait to get back on the court and compete again, kind of redeem ourselves from the last game,” Blair said. “We’ve been working really hard in practice and kind of fixing some things and tweaking a few things and holding ourselves accountable to get better on the defensive end.”

3. Can the Terps control the paint? It’s no secret that sophomore “big guard” Angel Reese is one of the most dominant players in college basketball. She leads the nation with 5.4 offensive boards per game and is a consistent double-double player in the post. Her 17.6 points and 10.7 rebounds lead the Terps. The Buckeyes lost a lot of height after 6-foot-5 forward Dorka Juhász transferred to UConn this season, leaving Mikulášiková as the tallest player on the roster. Still, defense isn’t Mikulášiková’s strength — she only has 11 blocks in 16 games — so Reese could be in for a big game.