Tied for first place with No. 13 Maryland atop the Big Ten standings, No. 14 Ohio State (22-6, 11-3 Big Ten) will play its final home game of the season against Northwestern (10-18, 3-11 Big Ten) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Schottenstein Center.
The Buckeyes have had recent success against the Wildcats. They hold a three-game winning streak against Northwestern, and have won seven of their eight previous matchups. Wednesday’s matchup will be the lone time the teams play this season, and the first meeting since Ohio State’s 31-point victory in the quarterfinals of last season’s conference tournament.
Northwestern began its season winning five of its first six games, but since has gone 5-17 with only three conference victories. The team hit a rough stretch in January and February with it going on an eight-game losing streak, and at one point losing 10 of 11 games.
Ohio State’s focus will shift to freshman guard Lindsey Pulliam, who leads Northwestern in scoring with 14.3 points per game. But as a team, Northwestern struggles to score and sits third to last in the Big Ten with 62.4 points per game. Ohio State, by comparison, averages 85 points per game.
That doesn’t mean Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff is overlooking the Wildcats.
“If you look at them, they’ve played their best games against the best teams on the road,” McGuff said. “They have a lot of talent, they’re just young, they have a hard time closing games, but they are in every game and I suspect this time a year they’re gonna take their best shot they can on the road knowing what we have in front of us.”
The Wildcats have three players who score more than 10 points, with the next closest — freshman Jordan Hamilton — coming in at just 7.8 points per game. Abi Scheid, a 6-foot-2 sophomore forward, is second on the team in scoring, with 12.4 per game while junior forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah averages a double-double, with 11 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.
With two games remaining, Ohio State will need help from other teams in order to secure the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Maryland, with its 11-3 conference record, holds the first place tiebreaker as a result of the Terrapins’ 99-69 victory against Ohio State earlier this season.
In the season’s final stretch, the Buckeyes also will have a shot at securing home games for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. They must beat Northwestern in order to remain one of the top-16 teams. Senior guard Asia Doss is not concerned with hosting tournament games, though.
“Honestly, I think it’s just one game at a time, at this point we still have a chance to win the Big Ten Conference,” senior guard Asia Doss said. “We’re still trying to finish out the season, at least for me that hasn’t really crossed my mind. I don’t really look at that, I’m just worried about the Big Ten right now.”
Ohio State senior guard Kelsey Mitchell has a chance to take advantage of Northwestern, which has the third-worst scoring margin in the conference. She is tied for second in the nation with 24.6 points per game and needs 42 points to pass former Baylor forward Brittney Griner for the third-most career points. Mitchell has scored career 3,242 points.