Ohio State women’s basketball will seek to maintain its momentum on the road Thursday night.
The Buckeyes (12-9, 5-5 Big Ten) will try to piece together their second straight win against Illinois (10-11, 1-9) in Champaign, Illinois.
Ohio State won the first meeting between the two, 77-47, on Jan. 19, closing the game on a 40-10 run to secure victory.
Ohio State enters this matchup with a come-from-behind win against Nebraska on the road — a game in which it pulled itself out of a 15-point halftime deficit. Junior guard Braxtin Miller led the team back with her 17 points.
Miller has seen a revival throughout the past two games, averaging 16 points during the stretch. She had just seven total points in the four games prior, including a matchup with the Illini, against whom she was held scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting.
“I got to the place where I know the type of player that I am,” Miller said. “I just needed to have confidence in myself and do what I know that I can do.”
Miller said her leadership will be key to the Buckeyes’ success in February while the team fights for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“She knows the grind of the season,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said. “[It’s] especially important this time of the year because we have a lot of young people who haven’t gone this far.”
Sophomore forward Aaliyah Patty has struggled to stay out of early foul trouble this season, which has hampered her ability to get in the flow of games.
“Being on the bench is not the best place for me to help my team,” Patty said. “I just have to stop fouling early on, so I can help my team later on in the game when it’s needed.”
Patty is one of three Buckeyes coming off a double-double performance against Nebraska. Fellow sophomore forward Dorka Juhasz and freshman guard Kierstan Bell both notched double-doubles in the game.
In the teams’ previous meeting in January, the Buckeyes had a strong showing defending the 3, holding the Illini to just 28 percent for the game. They held junior guard Petra Holešínská, who shoots 42 percent from deep on the season, to just 1-for-6 on the day.
Holešínská is still a lethal offensive threat, putting up a team-high 13.6 points per game, while shooting the third-best percentage from 3 in the conference.
Juhasz and Patty will have their hands full with Illinois freshman forward Kennedi Myles, a Cincinnati native, as she looks to have a repeat performance from the January game, during which Myles secured her sixth double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Myles is the Illini’s second-leading scorer with 9.5 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per contest.
Despite the sub-.500 record, the Illini have maintained a 9-5 record at home. They come into this matchup after failing to defend their homecourt in a 73-64 loss to Wisconsin.
“I told the team in the locker room that I had a feeling that this will be a really tough game,” Miller said.
The Illini are freefalling, having lost five straight games with their most recent win being against Minnesota Jan. 12. They have a league-worst scoring margin of -22.8 in conference games.
With four weeks left in the season, the Buckeyes are gunning for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s going to be a fight,” Patty said. “Everyone’s coming at us, and we’re going after everyone else.”
The Illini and Buckeyes tip off at 8 p.m. Thursday.