No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball welcomes No. 10 Ohio State to XFINITY Center for a Big Ten clash on Sunday afternoon. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. on ESPN2.
The Terps (18-5, 9-3 Big Ten) are looking to bounce back from Thursday’s 96-82 loss to No. 6 Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. Maryland’s trio of Diamond Miller, Shyanne Sellers and Abby Meyers was the only source of offense with 68 of its team’s total points. The Terps were hobbled by a slow start and never regained their traction in the top-10 showdown.
Ohio State (20-3, 9-3 Big Ten) is coming off a resounding 90-67 victory over Wisconsin after dropping its previous three contests. The Buckeyes have been ranked in the top 10 for the majority of the season, as they possess one of the best rosters in the country. Many expected Ohio State to take another step after an appearance in last season’s Sweet 16.
Maryland owns a 12-8 series lead over Ohio State after splitting a pair of matchups last season. Both teams have a 9-3 record in Big Ten play and Sunday’s winner will have a one-game lead for third place in the conference standings.
The Terps will look for their fifth top-25 victory after their last defeat snapped a five-game winning streak, while Ohio State is hoping to add a quality road victory to its late-season resume.
Sunday’s game has the makings of another riveting battle between a pair of elite programs.
Ohio State Buckeyes (20-3, 9-3 Big Ten)
Ohio State is led by head coach Kevin McGuff, who’s in his ninth season overseeing the program. McGuff had previous coaching stints at Xavier and Washington while amassing an official career winning percentage of 0.668. The Buckeyes have been a symbol of success under McGuff, as he’s led the program to multiple deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.
Last season, McGuff guided Ohio State to a 25-7 record and an appearance in the Sweet 16. Under McGuff’s tutelage, Ohio State’s offense has ranked in the top three of the Big Ten in points scored. This season, they are second in the conference with 84 points per game.
Ohio State started the season with 19 consecutive victories, with its most notable result coming in a 87-75 victory over then-No. 5 Tennessee on Nov. 8. This year’s team looks to push the tempo early and often, so transition defense will be key in trying to contain this offense.
The Buckeyes have the requisite tools to cut down the nets in March, so picking up their fifth top-25 victory can help to build momentum with a few games remaining.
Players to know
Taylor Mikesell, senior guard, 5-foot-11, No. 24 — The former Terp is a three-level scorer and one of the best players in the Big Ten. Mikesell is sixth in the conference with 17.9 points per game. The Ohio native has scored in double figures 22 times, highlighted by a 31-point performance in an 87-81 victory over Illinois on Jan. 8. She causes an array of problems for defenses with her shiftiness and experience of creating separation for her fluid jump shot. Mikesell is a critical piece of Ohio State’s offensive attack, so identifying a game plan to limit her impact should be a point of emphasis for the Terps.
Taylor Thierry, sophomore guard/forward, 6-foot, No. 2 — Thierry has played well in place of injured senior guard Jacy Sheldon, as she recorded a career-high 25 points in Ohio State’s 90-67 victory over Wisconsin on Feb. 1. Ohio State’s offense hasn’t skipped a beat and Thierry is a big reason why. The 6-foot guard is a willing rebounder, with 13 games of seven rebounds or more. Thierry is active on the defensive end, evidenced by her fourth ranking in the Big Ten with 2.1 steals per game. Ohio State’s offense is loaded and Thierry has been stringing together several games of consistent production. Over the past seven games, Thierry is averaging 15.9 points per game and 7.9 rebounds; the Buckeyes have gone 4-3 during that stretch.
Cotie McMahon, freshman forward, 6-foot, No. 32 — The No. 23 recruit in ESPNW’s HoopGurlz class of 2022 rankings is enjoying a sensational freshman season in Columbus. McMahon is third on the team with 13.5 points per game. In Ohio State’s recent victory over Wisconsin, McMahon accumulated a solid stat line of 19 points, four rebounds and four assists. The Buckeyes’ No. 32 has a great feel for spacing the floor and has flashed the potential of being a go-to player for years to come.
Offense. Ohio State has one of the best offenses in the Big Ten and the country. The Buckeyes average 84 points per game, with six players averaging in double figures. Mikesell is a complete bucket, but the team’s depth only adds to the potency of its attack. It is a dangerous opponent, as it aims to make opposing defenses work the entire 94 feet to defend their vaunted offense. In 17 of its 20 victories this season, Ohio State has scored 80 points or more, displaying its ability to find great success at the rim. When devising a game plan to defeat Ohio State, there must be added attention to how to combat their explosive offense.
Free throws. There are going to be nip-and-tuck games moving forward, so the performance at the charity stripe could be a deciding factor. Ohio State is 11th in the Big Ten with a 69.7% free throw percentage. It’s quite surprising to see the Buckeyes struggling in this category despite having six players shooting 70% or better. In order for Ohio State to take that next step, it needs to consistently make free throws.
Three things to watch
1. How will Maryland respond after suffering its second road loss? A slow start from the onset of the game is a recipe for disaster when facing some of the Big Ten’s best teams. The last time Maryland hit the hardwood, it was blown off the court by Iowa and a barrage of 3-pointers from star Caitlin Clark. Maryland will look to avoid losing two in a row for the first time this season.
2. Which Terp will add to the usual scoring punch? Fourteen points scored by others outside of Sellers, Miller and Meyers in their recent defeat is not a trend the Terps will look to repeat. Maryland’s others did not add much to the scoring department, as senior forward Faith Masonius’ six points were the next highest scorer. Maryland senior guards Brinae Alexander and Lavender Briggs struggled to generate offense with a combined four points on a 2-for-7 showing from the field. The Terps are going to need Alexander, Briggs and others to shake off their last performance.
Alexander, a Vanderbilt transfer, has shown the ability to knock down perimeter shots, with a 45.7% 3-point percentage. Briggs, a career 1,000-point scorer, will be relied upon to flash the dynamic scoring ability from her playing days at Florida. Sunday’s game should be an interesting matchup between two elite programs. It will be worth monitoring to see which Maryland player will add to the scoring department.
3. What’s the plan for defending Taylor Mikesell? Many Maryland fans are very familiar with Mikesell, as she played two seasons (2018-20) under head coach Brenda Frese. Mikesell is a load to deal with on the offensive end of the court. She scored 33 points and made all five of her 3-pointers in Ohio State’s upset victory over Maryland last season in Columbus. What did Mikesell do for an encore in her return to College Park? She recorded 29 points and two rebounds, but the Terps held on for the narrow 77-72 victory last February. There should be a meticulous plan to limit Mikesell, as she has shown the ability to single-handedly generate offense for the Buckeyes. There are several keys to victory heading into Sunday, but limiting Mikesell should the top priority for Maryland.