Ohio State women’s basketball has finally found a rhythm as it looks to further its longest winning streak of the season to four games.
The Buckeyes (14-9, 7-5 Big Ten) look to improve their now tied-for-fifth-place conference standing against Minnesota (15-9, 5-8), a team Ohio State has defeated in seven consecutive matchups.
Ohio State hopes to continue its newfound momentum as it heads toward the end of the season. The Buckeyes kept rolling after they obtained their third-straight win 82-74 Sunday against Wisconsin.
Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said he expects to see sophomore forward Dorka Juhasz, the team’s leading scorer, back on the court after sitting out the team’s win against Wisconsin with an ankle injury.
Juhasz and freshman forward Rebeka Mikulasikova are the two most efficient 3-point shooters on the team by percentage at .400 and .439 respectively.
“They’re both very unique players,” McGuff said. “They’re big, and they’re post players, but they both shoot the ball very well.”
McGuff said the team struggled early in the season to find balance in how they used the duo, but with a system in place, Ohio State’s offense has benefited.
Freshman guard Kierstan Bell looks to continue her strong all-around play as she has put up two double-doubles in the past three games. She had a career-high 20 points Sunday.
In the most recent meeting between the teams, Ohio State went to Minneapolis and upset then-No. 24 Minnesota 66-63 Dec. 31.
However, Minnesota’s team dynamic has shifted as their leading scorer, sophomore forward Destiny Pitts, announced she was transferring Jan. 16.
After starting 1-3 without Pitts, the Golden Gophers rattled off their own three-game tear before falling 77-52 at the hands of Michigan in their most recent game.
“They’ve really kept the same thing going,” McGuff said. “They’ve had some people step up.”
Taking the reins of the Minnesota offense is freshman guard Jasmine Powell, who’s had seven straight double-digit scoring performances and an average of 15.4 points per game since Pitts left the team.
Anchoring the forward position for the Gophers is senior Taiye Bello, who averages a double-double in 2019-20 with a league-best 10 rebounds per contest alongside 12.2 points.
“Bello is always there trying to get every offensive and defensive rebound,” Mikulasikova said. “As a team, we really need to box out.”
This matchup should be a battle of 3-point shooting as both teams rank in the top 3 of the Big Ten for 3-pointers made per game. Minnesota is No. 2 with 7.6 per game, while Ohio State sits at No. 3 with 7.3.
Ohio State is making a push for the coveted double-bye in the Big Ten tournament, which is awarded to the top four teams in the conference. The Buckeyes sit two games behind Indiana for the fourth spot.
“We can feel that momentum growing,” freshman guard Madison Greene said. “We have to stay focused and locked in on the end of this season.”
While it’s difficult not to look ahead, the Buckeyes know they need to take this stretch run step by step.
“We definitely take it one game at a time,” Greene said. “It’s focusing on practice and honing in on our weaknesses.”
Ohio State and Minnesota tip off at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Schottenstein Center.