No. 6 Indiana women’s basketball has faced several tests in its best start in program history, but its biggest test thus far presents itself Thursday night. The Hoosiers will face No. 2 Ohio State in a significant Big Ten matchup.
Indiana comes into the contest on a hot streak, a six-game winning streak. Three of those six wins have come against ranked opponents. Most recently, the Hoosiers took care of business on the road at No. 13 Michigan on Monday night, a 92-83 statement win.
Ohio State, on the other hand, enters the game seeking to bounce back. The Buckeyes started their season 19-0 before suffering their first loss to No. 10 Iowa on Monday night. The result created a three-way tie at the top of the Big Ten Standings between Indiana, Ohio State and Iowa.
Last season, Ohio State finished the regular season as the better team in the standings, but the Hoosiers had an advantage. In their lone regular season matchup, the Hoosiers crushed the Buckeyes 86-66 in Columbus. Ohio State earned the 1-seed in the Big Ten tournament, but Indiana again prevailed, a 70-62 victory to compete for the Big Ten title, which it ultimately lost.
The Buckeyes brought back 4 starters from last season, including star seniors in guards Jacy Shelton and Taylor Mikesell. However, Shelton — who averaged 19.7 points per game and was a unanimous All-Big Ten First-Teamer last season — suffered a leg injury five games into the season and has not appeared since. Nonetheless, Ohio State found ways to get off to its 19-0 start.
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Mikesell has been the catalyst this season. Another All-Big Ten First Teamer, she averages 18.2 points per game to lead the Buckeyes in scoring. A two-time transfer from first Maryland and later the University of Oregon, she is a former teammate of junior guard Sydney Parrish, who was a freshman during Mikesell’s junior season with the Ducks in 2020-21.
While Mikesell is undeniably great, senior forward Mackenzie Holmes will be the best player on the floor. The Hoosiers’ star comes in averaging 21.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Holmes has been on a dominant stretch as of late, notching double-doubles in six of her last seven games.
As two overwhelming top-10 teams, both teams rank in the top three in the Big Ten in points per game and top five in points allowed per game. This being said, Thursday night’s game has the potential to be anything from an offensive shootout scoring 85+ points to a defensive showdown with scoring in the 60-point range.
The battle of titans could very well be a deciding factor in the Big Ten title race. Indiana will play both Ohio State and Iowa twice, but the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes meeting Monday night is their sole contest this season. If Indiana wants an outright regular season championship, winning the home contests against both teams will be a necessity.
On a macroscale, Thursday night’s contest will shake up the top-10 of the AP Poll and could determine seeding for the NCAA Tournament. Having already lost to No. 10 Iowa, the second-ranked Buckeyes are sure to slip in the poll, and an Indiana win could both plummet Ohio State and move the Hoosiers to as high as third. As a projected 1-seed for the tournament, Indiana can pick up another marquee win and solidify its spot.
The top-10 tilt is scheduled to tipoff at 8:30 p.m. Thursday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. It will be available to watch on BTN.
Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Sebree (@mattsebree) and columnist Matt Press (@MattPress23) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season.