Preview: #6 Indiana hosts #2 Ohio State

In their third consecutive battle against a ranked team, the #6 Indiana Hoosiers (18-1 / 8-1) will host #2 Ohio State (19-1 / 8-1) at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall at 8:30pm on Thursday, January 26th. These are two of the four remaining teams in the country with less than 2 losses (LSU and SC remain undefeated). Additionally, the match-up will determine who moves into the lone lead at the top of the Big Ten Conference, temporarily, at least. The game can be watched live on the Big Ten Network.

This season, Indiana is averaging just shy of 82 points per game and shooting 50% from the field, making them the nation’s second most efficient offense. But Ohio State has one of the best defenses in the country, averaging more than 13 steals per game (#4) and a +9.3 margin of turnovers per game (#3).

“[Ohio State] is a very dangerous team. Especially dangerous coming off of a loss at home, to an Iowa team,” said Indiana Head Coach Teri Moren.

The Buckeyes were undefeated until a few days ago, when Hawkeye Guard Caitlyn Clark achieved a triple-double on the road, lifting Iowa on top of Ohio State 83-72.

Coach Moren wearing a Grace Berger shirt during the All-American’s rehabilitation from a knee injury (Photo by Jeremy Hogan)

Moren understands the magnitude of yet another top 5 match-up this season, but she is committed to the discipline of focusing on the task at hand, as she describes, keeping your head down and your blinders on.

“Distractions are something that you can’t allow to happen,” Coach Moren insisted. “We are glad to be home, we played the last two on the road, so to be in our own environment is really a good thing for us.”

Indiana is in the midst of playing 7 or their final 11 regular season games against nationally ranked opponents. After finishing up against #21 Illinois and #13 Michigan on the road, Coach Moren is hoping that Hoosier Nation will fill the Hall on Thursday evening. She desires that the student section is packed like it was last season for the NCAA Tournament games hosted in Bloomington. “Get the word out, we’re gonna need ’em.” Moren exclaimed.

Ohio State is led by Senior Guard Taylor Mikesell, averaging more than 18 ppg, one of 6 Buckeyes averaging double digits on the season, although it is unlikely that we will see any action from First Team All-Big Ten Senior Guard Jacy Sheldon, who has been out since November with a leg injury.

Sheldon is apparently rehabbing well and is being slated to return to the line-up “very soon,” but it is unlikely that she will be dressed for this first of two contests against the Hoosiers. OSU Head Coach Kevin McGruff has stated that he will not bring Sheldon back until she’s 100%, not to simply bring her off the bench for a few minutes; when Sheldon comes back, she will be back.

Ohio State will likely apply a full-court press for most of the game. They are hugely successful with their various traps, whether one/two/two, two/one/two, or two/two/one, the Buckeyes generate multiple forced turnovers off of defensive pressure.

Look for Indiana to utilize Junior Guard Chloe Moore-McNeil and Freshman Guard Lexus Bargesser in the point position and to move All-American Graduate Guard Grace Berger to the wing in the half-court transition to shift against the Buckeye zone. Additionally, the Hoosiers will need to utilize their size against the boards to limit OSU on second chance points, and of course on offense, to force the ball into the paint, allowing All-American Senior Forward Mackenzie Holmes to work her magic.

Next up, Indiana will host Rutgers for a 2pm tip-off at Assembly Hall on Sunday, January 29th.

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