Less than two weeks ago, the Ohio State women’s basketball team needed overtime, but it defeated Michigan 78-71 on the road to remain undefeated in Big Ten play.
No. 8 Ohio State (16-2, 5-0 Big Ten) will have a chance to defeat No. 19 Michigan (15-4, 4-2 Big Ten) a second time to keep its spotless conference record at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Schottenstein Center.
Both teams will be fresh off Saturday road victories. The Buckeyes defeated Indiana 77-62, while the Wolverines beat Nebraska 69-64 in overtime.
G — Asia Doss — Senior, 5-foot-7, 9.2 ppg, 3 rpg, 3.5 apg
G — Kelsey Mitchell — Senior, 5-foot-8, 25.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.4 apg
G — Linnae Harper — Redshirt senior, 5-foot-8, 15.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.4 apg
G — Sierra Calhoun — Redshirt junior, 6-foot, 12.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.2 apg
F — Stephanie Mavunga — Redshirt senior, 6-foot-3, 15.2 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 0.8 apg
G — Katelynn Flaherty — Senior, 5-foot-7, 23.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.9 apg
G — Nicole Munger — Junior, 5-foot-11, 9.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.4 apg
F — Jillian Dunston — Senior, 5-foot-11, 3.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 3.7 apg
F — Hailey Brown — Freshman, 6-foot-1, 8.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1 apg
C — Hallie Thome — Junior, 6-foot-5, 16.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.5 apg
Tuesday’s game pitting the Buckeyes and Wolverines will be the second matchup between the teams in less than two weeks. In Ohio State’s overtime win on Jan. 7, the visiting team needed everything they got from senior guard Kelsey Mitchell, who dropped 37 points.
On Tuesday, the Buckeyes might need more of the same from the preseason All-American because the Wolverines have succeeded this season, including in their game against their rival two weeks ago, on the interior. Michigan averages 9.7 more rebounds per game than its opponents, which ranks 18th in the country. It holds opponents to 30.3 rebounds per game, the lowest average in the conference.
The Wolverines’ dominance on the board begins with junior center Hallie Thome, a Chagrin Falls, Ohio, native who Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said he recruited for a short time before the Buckeyes landed other commitments. She averages 16.4 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game, which each rank second on the team.
Thome’s standout trait is her size. Standing 6-foot-5, she towers over every player on Ohio State, including redshirt senior forward Stephanie Mavunga, the starter in the post who averages a double-double. McGuff, though, is more impressed by Thome’s touch around the basket and feel for the game.
“She’s really, really skilled,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said. “You see a lot of big kids, but not many big kids that have her size in conjunction with the skill that she has. [It’s] a really tough matchup for us.”
In the first matchup between the teams, Thome led Michigan with 27 points and corralled eight rebounds. She was joined in double-figures by senior guard Katelynn Flaherty, who added 22 points and eight assist, but made only 7-of-22 shots. McGuff said he thought the Buckeyes defended her well, but she still managed to make tough shots while defenders swarmed.
In order to hold Michigan’s offense in check, Ohio State must keep Flaherty, who averages the third-most points in the conference (23.1), from getting open looks and keep Thome from getting the ball in opportune positions.
“They just present a really tough matchup because those kids are so good,” McGuff said. “And they’ve got other players around them that seem to play their role extremely well.”
One of the other role players McGuff is referencing who could hurt the Buckeyes is senior forward Jillian Dunston. Though she lacks much scoring ability, she helps facilitate the offense and leads the team with 9.4 rebounds per game.
Michigan junior guard Nicole Munger holds the highest 3-point shooting percentage of any player on either team (41.6 percent). The Wolverines make 36.3 percent of their triples and hold opponents to just 30.9 percent from beyond the arc, the third-lowest of any team in the conference. Ohio State has shot more 3-pointers (481 attempts) than any team in the Big Ten.
Remaining undefeated in Big Ten
As the highest-ranked Big Ten team in the AP poll and the only team left undefeated in Big Ten play, Ohio State has only had one close call against a conference opponent: an overtime win against Michigan.
The Buckeyes began the Big Ten portion of the season 5-0 for the first time in McGuff’s tenure. Last season, they finished 15-1 against conference opponents, with their only loss coming to Michigan State in the fifth Big Ten game of the season.
For the record to remain unblemished, Ohio State will have to take on a Michigan team that has struggled against the upper echelon of college basketball teams and is still searching for a win against a top-25 team after four failed attempts. In November, it lost 74-49 to No. 2 Louisville and 83-63 to No. 5 Notre Dame. The Wolverines then lost 82-72 to Iowa on Dec. 31 before dropping the overtime game to the Buckeyes.