Following back-to-back losses, punctuated by a 99-69 loss Monday to No. 14 Maryland, the No. 12 Ohio State women’s basketball team (16-4, 5-2 Big Ten) will take to the road Thursday night to face Iowa (15-5, 3-4 Big Ten).
Although the Hawkeyes have struggled lately, junior center Megan Gustafson has provided them with consistent play this season. Gustafson averages a double-double with 23.6 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, while adding 2.1 blocks per game. She shoots 67 percent from the field.
She will be tasked with matching up against Ohio State redshirt senior Stephanie Mavunga. The team’s third-leading scorer, Mavunga averages 15.2 points and 11 rebounds per game. She will draw a tough matchup and slowing Gustafson down will be key in order to come out on top.
“[Gustafson] does a fantastic job of getting great positioning, deep positioning and she knows exactly how to play the game,” Mavunga said. “She doesn’t force things, she pushes the ball out.”
After Gustafson, the Hawkeyes’ productivity drops, but there still are players who can be double-digit scorers. The Hawkeyes will need to rely on redshirt freshman guard Alexis Sevillian and sophomore guards Mackenzie Meyer and Kathleen Doyle, all of whom average more than 10 points per game.
With Ohio State’s recent struggles against teams atop the Big Ten, Thursday’s game comes as a chance to get back on track. Iowa has a strong 15-5 record and is 8-2 at home. However, the Hawkeyes have lost three straight games and have lost four of five games to start 2018.
In for the Buckeyes to attain results, they will need stronger performances on both ends of the court. They have been outscored 183-144 in the past two games, and a lot of the damage has come in the second half, when opponents hold a 97-66 advantage against Ohio State.
The Buckeyes will look to shake off back-to-back poor shooting performances. Following the first Big Ten loss, they looked to improve on their shooting. However, it was another rough night, with the Buckeyes shooting just 39 percent from the field and 27 percent from deep.
“We need to move on, but we need to talk about [their problems on the court] or we’re just setting ourselves up to repeat history,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said.
Ohio State returns home
Following the Iowa game, Ohio State will head back home to face Michigan State (14-7, 4-4 Big Ten) at noon Sunday at the Schottenstein Center.
This will be the first matchup for both teams since last season when the Spartans gave the Buckeyes their only loss in conference play in a road game that ended 94-75.
The Spartans have lost two straight games, due in part to an injury-depleted backcourt. They had only eight active players in their 74-48 loss to Michigan Tuesday.
With multiple injured players, the game against Michigan State could be a chance for the Buckeyes to create momentum.