Maryland women’s basketball returns to the court Monday for a Big Ten game against No. 8 Ohio State.
Both teams are tied atop the standings at 5-1, and have been the two best teams in the Big Ten since Maryland joined the conference in 2014. The Buckeyes have also been Maryland’s kryptonite since then, and until two weeks ago were the only team to beat the Terps since they joined the conference. Maryland has gone 2-3 against Ohio State and 61-1 against everyone else in the Big Ten the past four years.
While Maryland narrowly beat Indiana, 74-70, on Jan. 16, Ohio State suffered a 84-75 home loss to No. 19 Michigan the same day. All three of the Buckeyes’ losses have come against ranked opponents, as they lost to No. 2 Louisville and No. 15 Duke earlier this season.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Ohio State Buckeyes (16-3, 5-1)
2016-17 record: 28-7, 15-1
Head coach Kevin McGuff is 111-47 in five seasons at Ohio State. Ohio State went just 17-18 in his first season, but the arrival of Kelsey Mitchell helped turn around the program. Before coming to Columbus, he had a 41-26 record in two seasons at Washington and left the Huskies a parting gift in future all-time NCAA scoring leader Kelsey Plum. McGuff was also the head coach at Xavier from 2002-11 and led the Musketeers to six NCAA tournaments, including an Elite Eight in 2010.
Players to know
Kelsey Mitchell, senior, guard, 5’8, No. 3. Mitchell’s 25.3 points a game are second in the NCAA and she leads the country with 73 three-pointers. She’s also a cold-blooded Maryland killer, scoring 30.7 points per game against the Terps the past two seasons.
Stephanie Mavunga, redshirt senior, forward, 6’3, No. 1. Maryland’s few post players will their hands full against Mavunga, who averages 15.4 points and 11.2 rebounds a game. She played two seasons at North Carolina before transferring to Ohio State.
Linnae Harper, redshirt senior, guard, 5’8, No. 15. After winning Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year last season, Harper has taken on a much bigger role this year. She’s averaging 15.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game, and makes sure teams can’t focus only on stopping Mitchell.
Sierra Calhoun, redshirt junior, 6’0, No. 4. Another capable perimeter scorer, Calhoun averages 12.7 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. However, she shoots an inefficient 37.8 percent from the field.
Asia Doss, senior, guard, 5’7, No. 20. Doss’ stats aren’t eye-popping, but she serves the same steady, veteran role that Kristen Confroy does for Maryland. Her 35 minutes a game are second to Mitchell’s 35.9, and she also averages 9.7 points, 3.5 assists and two steals a night.
Scoring. The Buckeyes average 87.7 points per game, the third-highest mark in Division I. They’ve scored 98 and 94 points in their last two victories against the Terps. Expect them to push the tempo and the game to move at a frenetic pace.
Defense. Ohio State has mostly been able to just outscore teams, so giving up 71 points a game usually doesn’t matter. But in its three losses, Ohio State has allowed 82.7 points and allowed its opponents to shoot nearly 50 percent from the field.
Three things to watch
- How does Maryland limit Kelsey Mitchell? If the Terps want to finally crack the code against Ohio State, they need to make sure Mitchell doesn’t take over the game. Kaila Charles had some success against the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year last year, but that success was limited due to foul trouble. Head coach Brenda Frese may have to find a different option this year, as Maryland will need Charles Monday night.
2. Can Maryland improve its three-point defense? Without Watson, the Terps’ three-point defense has suffered. Michigan State and Indiana combined to shoot 44.6 percent from beyond the arc, which is much higher than the 30.3 percent clip by opponents when Watson was healthy. Maryland will need to do a much better job defending the three-point line against Ohio State, who hits a Big Ten-best 9.4 threes a game.
3. Will Kaila Charles continue to dominate against ranked foes? The sophomore has averaged 28 points and 11 rebounds in Maryland’s three games against ranked opponents. If the Terps want to pull off the upset, Charles will have to lead the charge.
Ohio State wins, 89-80.