Away contests for the Ohio State women’s basketball team have been problematic, as it has lost three of its five matches as the visitor this season.
Now, after a convincing 90-70 victory Sunday afternoon over the Purdue Boilermakers, No. 7 OSU (13-4, 5-1) plans to carry over the energy it exposed in that game against Michigan (11-6, 3-3) Thursday evening. The Buckeyes and Wolverines are set to tip off at 6 p.m. in the Crisler Center.
The main problem for the Buckeyes on the road revolves around their focus on the court. There have been times throughout the season where they haven’t honed in on what they had to do to get the job done, hurting them by the time the fourth quarter came around.
“When we are not at home we have to make sure we have a lot of focus and stay together,” sophomore guard Asia Doss said. “The breakdowns mostly come on the defensive end, then (our opponents) get in transition and we don’t get back.”
Doss returned to the starting lineup against Purdue, marking just her second start of the year. She contributed seven points and four assists in the 31 minutes that she saw the hardwood. Doss mentioned how it was a different experience starting rather than coming off the bench, specifically not being able to have those few minutes to analyze what is going on in the game prior to checking in.
Although on paper the Scarlet and Gray have the clear advantage, the Wolverines have a roster that is littered with complete players. Despite the fact that the rivalry between OSU and Michigan is typically referred to when talking about the gridiron, there is still tension between the two regardless of what the sport may be.
The last time these two faced off in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was a year ago on Jan. 11. The game extended into overtime, where the Wolverines eventually came out on top, 100-94. Just like the team that hit the century mark last year, Michigan is a high-scoring team, and the Buckeyes said they need to bring lockdown defense if they want to come out victorious.
“I think our defense has to be really good,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “They really make you pay. They shoot the ball so well, and that’s what happened last year.”
Scoring, contrary to focus for road games, has not been a problem for the Buckeyes, as they lead the conference in that category, dropping 86.4 points per game. Having two prolific scorers in senior guard Ameryst Alston and sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell — both ranking in the top 10 in scoring for the conference — does not hurt OSU’s chances of putting the rock in the basket.
Handling Thome and Thompson
The Buckeyes have a tough task at hand stopping the talents of junior guard Siera Thompson and freshman center Hallie Thome. Both players have different types of games but can be lethal if they are able to get the shots they are looking for.
Thompson is a crafty guard who is known for her speed and getting to the basket. OSU’s backcourt will need to pressure her but also stay in front to not allow her to get penetration toward the basket. When Thompson is able to find a hole in the defense, she not only is able to create her own shots, but she can use her impressive court vision to distribute the ball to the open teammate, evident by the 4.7 assists she averages on the season.
The 6-foot-5 freshman Thome is a skilled post player who originates from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, near Cleveland. In her last outing against Penn State, Thome grabbed five boards while shooting 8-of-9 from the field to finish with 18 points. Growing up nearby Buckeye Nation, one could expect Thome to bring her best play to the Crisler Center on Thursday.
Switching up the starting five
McGuff and his coaching staff have yet to stick with one starting lineup, and it doesn’t look like there will be one solidified any time soon. With the lineup constantly changing, it could be difficult for a team to find chemistry and understand each other’s tendencies. Despite such concern, it hasn’t affected the Buckeyes quite yet, as they have been able to adjust to whatever fivesome McGuff decides to put on the floor.
“Our kids have done a really good job right now, for the most part,” McGuff said about the flip-flopping of the lineups. “We are playing with different combinations and playing around with the lineup a little bit just because I was never really tied to anything in that regard.”
Like many coaches, McGuff said he notices hard work, and if the players continue to work hard in practice and in the games, then they will be earning their playing time.
Following the Wolverines, the Buckeyes are scheduled to travel to Piscataway, New Jersey, for their second clash of the season with Rutgers (12-7, 3-4) on Sunday. On Jan. 10 when the Scarlet Knights visited Columbus, OSU had no problem overcoming them in a 90-78 win.
Tipoff for the rematch is slated for 3 p.m.