After a 4-8 start, this season seemed like nothing except a rebuild year for the Ohio State women’s basketball team following the departure of Kelsey Mitchell, along with the rest of the Buckeyes’ starting five from a year ago.
Since the team’s worst start in more than a decade, Ohio State has turned a corner, winning nine of the past 13 games, moving itself into the No. 5 spot in the Big Ten.
With two games remaining before the Big Ten tournament, a tournament the Buckeyes would likely need to make a run in to have a shot at the NCAA tournament, a road battle against Wisconsin could be a crucial victory to help continue the momentum.
Ohio State (13-12, 9-7 Big Ten)
G — Carmen Grande — Redshirt senior, 8.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.0 apg
G — Janai Crooms — Freshman, 8.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.0 apg
G — Carly Santoro — Redshirt senior, 11.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.2 apg
F — Dorka Juhasz — Freshman, 12.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 0.9 apg
F — Makayla Waterman — Redshirt senior, 8.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.7 apg
Wisconsin (13-15, 4-12 Big Ten)
G — Kendra van Leeuwen — Junior, 4.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.5 apg
G — Niya Beverley — Sophomore, 7.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.6 apg
G — Kelly Karlis — Senior, 7.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.9 apg
F — Imani Lewis — Freshman, 12.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 0.6 apg
F — Marsha Howard — Senior, 14.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.3 apg
The Badgers are No. 13 in the Big Ten, leading only 2-15 Illinois to stay ahead of rock bottom. Their struggles come mostly from shooting, where Wisconsin ranks No. 13 with a 39.8 shooting percentage from the field.
It gets worse from behind the arc, with the Badgers shooting 28.5 percent from 3, worst in the conference and No. 288 in the NCAA.
But even worse than its shooting percentage from the field is Wisconsin’s work at the free-throw line. The Badgers’ 57.6 free-throw percentage is worst in the Big Ten, eight percentage points lower than Ohio State, which has the next lowest.
The 57.6 percentage from the line is ninth-worst in the country, and the worst among Power-5 teams.
Ohio State and Wisconsin will match up for the second time in an 11-day span, with the Buckeyes holding on for a 70-68 victory on Feb. 17 behind 21 points and 15 rebounds from freshman forward Dorka Juhasz.
Senior forward Marsha Howard was No. 2 on the Badgers with 18 points and led the team with eight rebounds in the loss. Howard leads Wisconsin for the season with 14.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, shooting 48.7 percent from the field.
Against the Buckeyes, it was junior guard Suzanne Gilreath who stepped up, hitting five 3s and finishing the game with a team-high 19 points. The five 3-point makes are the most by any Wisconsin player this season.
Though Ohio State was able to get the best of the Badgers on its home court, it may be a different level of difficulty in Madison, Wisconsin. The Badgers are 3-10 away from home — 2-9 on the road and 1-1 in neutral site games — but have won 10 of their 15 games in the Kohl Center.
Ohio State takes on Wisconsin on the road at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday.