Friday, January 28, 2022

Know Thy Enemy: Michigan State women's hoops heads to Columbus to take on Ohio State

January 12, 2022
<p>Nia Clouden (24) laughs after getting fouled during the game against Ohio State Jan. 16, 2019 at Breslin Center.</p>

Nia Clouden (24) laughs after getting fouled during the game against Ohio State Jan. 16, 2019 at Breslin Center.

Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

After falling flat in their matchup with Purdue, Michigan State women’s basketball is looking to start fresh when they play the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus Wednesday. 

The Spartans currently stand 8-7 overall and 2-2 in Big Ten play, while the Buckeyes are 11-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten. 

Ahead of Wednesday’s showdown, The State News' women's basketball reporters Sara Tidwell and Jenna Malinowski spoke with Patrick Engels, a senior reporter and former women’s basketball reporter at The Lantern to get an in depth look at what the Spartans are up against.

Q: Ohio State is 11-3 right now. What have they been doing well? what have they been struggling with? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Biggest of each?

A: For Ohio State, their biggest strength is undoubtedly the offense. They currently have the number six scoring offense in the nation at 83.3 points per game, and are also sixth in the nation in shooting percentage. One of the biggest reasons as to why the Buckeyes offense is so lethal is due to their style of play. Coach (Kevin) McGuff’s offense likes to play fast and get out in transition with the intent to get easy buckets and tire out the opponent. They also like to shoot the three ball and are pretty good at it.

Another strength for the Buckeyes is their pressure defense. They have run a full-court press in many games and have forced its opponents into 20.4 turnovers a game. This can bode well for OSU in this game as Michigan State turns the ball over 16 times a game.

As for weaknesses, I would say that they lack some court depth in the frontcourt which can cause them to have trouble defending the other team’s bigs from time to time. This is especially the case if their two biggest front court threats, Rebeka Mikulasikova and Tanaya Beacham, get into foul trouble. We saw this against Indiana on Dec. 12 where they gave up 30 points, seven rebounds and five blocks to forward Mackenzie Holmes. They also only have four players over 6’0” so if one or two of their players get into foul trouble, MSU’s bigs can find success in the paint.

Q: Who are Ohio State’s team leaders? Who does MSU need to watch out for and why?

A: Ohio State’s team leaders come from its frontcourt. The Buckeyes have three point guards — junior Jacy Sheldon and seniors Braxtin Miller and Taylor Mikesell who have a ton of Big Ten experience and step up in crunch time. For the scoring, Mikesell is a lights out shooter from three, as she is 9th in the nation at 47.68%. Sheldon is, in my opinion, their best offensive talent as she leads them with 18.7 points per game. She can also get after it on defense. Some other players to look out for are sophomore guard Kateri Poole and Mikulasikova. Poole has emerged in the starting lineup and is a great scorer and facilitator. She leads the team with 50 assists. Mikulasikova is their best big and leads with 5.9 rebounds per game.

Q: Who do you think needs to step up in order to handle MSU’s Nia Clouden? She’s averaging 22.5 points per game right now and is quite the force leading the Spartans.

A: I think it is going to have to be a collective effort from all the guards to stop Clouden. One thing they can do is put waves of pressure on her throughout the game, whether it be full or half court. Their goal will likely be to make her uncomfortable throughout the game and force her into tough shots. Look for Sheldon, Mikesell and Poole to be the primary defenders on her.

Q: What is your score prediction and why?

A: I would say Ohio State will pick up this win 85-70. The Buckeyes play extremely well at home (8-1 record) and seem to shoot much better at home than on the road. So I would predict that they will shoot very well and be led by Mikesell and Sheldon once again. I think their defense will also be able to limit the scoring of Clouden with its pressure. They might come at her in waves and try to make her uncomfortable. Limiting her will make MSU reliant on their secondary players, which will ultimately give OSU the advantage.

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