Through the first eight games in the Big Ten Conference, things have gone as expected. Ohio State sits atop the standings with a record of 8-0. The Hawkeyes sit a game back at 7-1. To get a more in-depth look at this game, I once again spoke with Thomas Costello of SBNation’s Ohio State site “Land-Grant Holy Land”. Costello shared the following with me:
BHGP: Through the first 19 games (obviously things going well) what is an area you feel OSU could improve upon?
LGHL:The answer of what they could improve upon is two-fold. To me, and it doesn’t matter to me since I’m not head coach Kevin McGuff, is more presence in the paint. When the Buckeyes have struggled this year, it’s been against teams with dominance in the post. Outside of two games against teams with dominant bigs, Ohio State’s given up double-doubles, and I mean big double-doubles like 34 points and 17 rebounds by Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu of the USF Bulls.
To the coach himself, it’s playing the Buckeyes style all 40 minutes. McGuff calls it “competitive character.” Sometimes in games the Scarlet & Gray don’t look like they’re 100% in the game. Granted, that’s against teams that Ohio State should be beating. Monday shouldn’t be an issue against a conference team of the stature of Iowa.
BHGP: What player has made the most improvement either from last year to this year or from the start of the season to now?
LGHL: There are a few choices for this one, but I’ll stick with one. Forward Rebeka Mikulášiková spent the first two seasons as a Buckeye mostly on the bench. She was behind two strong forwards until they both transferred before the start of the 21/22 season. That thrust the Slovakian into a starting role last season.
Mikulášiková had a few standout performances, like last year when the Buckeyes faced the Iowa Hawkeyes, actually. This year though, she’s hit her stride and is competing at a higher level.
That improvement is credited to strong work in the offseason. Mikulášiková worked on her conditioning and mental strength in the offseason and entered the year averaging 19.8 points in the first eight games, over 10 points higher than her 9.4 points per game average last season.
The forward cooled down for a period, but in the last two games, Mikulášiková’s found that early season form. She’s dangerous because she’s 6-foot-3 and can shoot from anywhere on the court. Against Nebraska and Northwestern, she hit threes and made moves inside the paint around some pretty tough bigs.
There are two other players I could share, forwards Cotie McMahon and Taylor Thierry, but I don’t think people want to read a novel.
BHGP: What in your opinion has set the Bucks apart from their competition so far?
LGHL: This season, Ohio State has this other worldly ability to be down but never out. In five games, the Buckeyes saw themselves down by over 10 points at some point in the game. Take the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini, where they were down 17 points in the third quarter and cut the deficit in 4:40 of game time.
Once Ohio State gets into a run, it has the ability to break the morale of the opposing team. They’re able to get those runs because the deficits don’t phase them like it does other teams.
It’s because of the leadership on the Buckeyes, and their ability to stay calm and keep the course even if down in the game. Graduate senior Taylor Mikesell and redshirt junior Rikki Harris are those upperclassmen leaders on the court, plus injured guards Madison Greene and Jacy Sheldon providing that extra coaching on the sideline.
Also, Ohio State’s won most of these games without Sheldon who’s played only five games this season. The unanimous First Team All-B1G from last season was last seen off her boot and no longer using crutches. It seems like a chance she could suit up on Monday.
Bartt Pierce (BHGP):
Ohio State 94
Thomas Costello (LGHL):
Ohio State 80
Costello’s final comment:
This is another game for the Buckeyes where I see it going either way. They’re bound to lose a game this season and Monday seems like a good chance for that to happen, but I’ve doubted them a lot this season so who knows? I’m saying it’s an 85-80 Iowa Hawkeyes win.
Ohio State’s Top Performers:
The Buckeyes have five players averaging over double figures. Technically, OSU has six, but star guard Madison Greene has been lost for the season due to injury. Taylor Mikesell averages nearly 19 points per game. Jacy Sheldon comes in at 16 points per contest, and Rebeka Mikulasikova averages 15 points and over five rebounds. The Buckeyes are an athletic team who like to apply pressure. The Bucks are a good, not great, shooting team (35% 3FG / 70% FT), and they are not a great rebounding team. Ohio State averages 37.4 rebounds and gives up 37.3 boards per contest. Whichever team wins the rebounding battle will more than likely win this game. There’s a good chance these two teams will face off again in the B1G tournament.
Monday, January 23rd. #10 Iowa @ #2 Ohio State
Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network