An undefeated season is no longer within the realm of possibility for Maryland women’s basketball. The Terrapins lost their first game of the year at home to Rutgers, 73-65, on New Year’s Eve to close out 2018 on a sour note.
The Scarlet Knights are one of the better teams in the Big Ten, but it’s still a disappointing result for the No. 4-ranked Terps, who are bound to drop in the rankings when the polls are released on Monday afternoon.
Fortunately for Maryland, a chance to get back to its winning ways comes to College Park on Saturday afternoon. The Terrapins will welcome in the Ohio State Buckeyes, who are currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET and can be watched on the Big Ten Network.
Ohio State Buckeyes (4-7, 0-2 Big Ten)
2017-18 record: 28-7 (13-3 Big Ten)
Head coach Kevin McGuff is in his sixth season in Columbus, having previously headed up the programs at Xavier and Washington. He’s compiled a 382-157 (.709) in his 16-plus year career thus far, and he’s found great success early on with the Buckeyes. Under his leadership, Ohio State has reached four straight NCAA Tournaments, and last season, he brought the program its Big Ten Tournament title since 2011.
Players to watch
Dorka Juhász, freshman, forward, 6’4, No. 14. After playing for Hungary in the 2017 FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup, Juhasz has made an immediate impact since arriving in Columbus to start her collegiate career. The freshman has paced the team so far this season, averaging 11.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game to lead all players.
Carly Santoro, graduate, guard, 5’10, No. 10. One of six graduate students on the roster for Ohio State, Santoro has been a huge part of the team’s (limited) success to begin the season. Transferring in from Bowling Green, she has averaged 9.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, second and third on the squad, respectively. Last season with the Falcons, Santoro scored 12.8 points per outing while adding 8.7 rebounds.
Experience. It was a crazy offseason for the Buckeyes following their NCAA Tournament run a year ago. A total of seven players left — including the top six scorers — with most heading to the WNBA to pursue their professional careers. With a huge hole to fill on the roster, McGuff went out and brought in six graduate transfers, all of whom bring a ton of experience to the team from different backgrounds and situations.
Offense. Losing your top six scorers is never easy, and that’s affected the offense drastically so far this season. Just one year after scoring 85 points per game as a team, the Buckeyes’ scoring has fallen all the way off to 58.4 per outing, last in the conference. Ohio State has struggled often in shooting at an efficient rate, as its .370 field-goal percentage also ranks at the bottom of the Big Ten.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland get back on track? Monday may have been the team’s first loss, but in the game before against Penn State, the Terrapins struggled mightily until the final quarter of action. For a team with so much talent, they haven’t put everything together for a full game often enough so far this year. Against the Buckeyes, the Terps will have a chance to right the ship.
2. Does Shakira Austin figure it out? In perhaps Maryland’s two worst performances of the season, Austin has barely played and has been largely ineffective when on the court. Against Rutgers, the freshman played just 16 minutes and seemed lost on many occasions. She was a big part of the team’s early success, and if she can get back to her playing level of before, perhaps the team could get back on track as well.
3. Who stops Juhász? Ohio State’s freshman forward may be the best post player the Terrapins have faced so far this season. Standing at 6’4, she has the size to not only neutralize Maryland’s bigs inside on defense, she can also fight down low in the post offensively and attack the rim. Assuming she sees minutes, Austin could use her shot-blocking prowess to keep Juhász at bay, but if Brenda Frese keeps her prized recruit in the doghouse, it’ll be up to Brianna Fraser and Stephanie Jones to hold strong inside.