When the No. 12 Ohio State women’s basketball team comes to Ann Arbor on Thursday night, it will be playing with a little added incentive.

The Buckeyes, who lost to No. 1 Connecticut on Dec. 19 and to Duquesne on Tuesday, are coming off consecutive losses for only the third time since 2004.

Ohio State (8-3) would love nothing more than to take out its frustration on Michigan (7-5).

After finishing a brutal non-conference schedule that consisted of four games against ranked opponents, the Wolverines head into the matchup with the six-time defending Big Ten champion Buckeyes fresh off of a 68-55 victory over No. 24 Boston College, and they will look to start the Big Ten season with their second straight win over a ranked opponent.

And if last week’s win over the Eagles answered anything, it’s that Michigan can be successful against a bigger team — a question that has plagued the Wolverines so far this year.

Sophomore forward Rachel Sheffer scored a career-high 19 points against Boston College — and she did it while facing the Eagles’ 6-foot-6 center Carolyn Swords, one of the best centers in the nation.

“She’s going to be facing that all year long,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said after the Boston College game on Dec. 22. “It’s only going to get tougher and tougher for her. The Big Ten is tough. It’s strong, it’s physical, and it’s talented.”

On Thursday night, the 6-foot-1 Sheffer will face her most difficult task yet as she takes on 6-foot-4 Ohio State center Jantel Lavender.

Lavender, a two-time All-American and the three-time defending Big Ten Player of the Year, enters Thursday night’s contest averaging 25 points and 10 rebounds per game. She ranks third in the nation in points per game and second all-time on the Ohio State scoring list.

But Sheffer will not be alone in her quest to tame the much bigger Lavender. Against oversized Boston College, the Wolverines relied on team defense to defend the bigs inside and control the boards.

Sophomore guard Jenny Ryan, who led the team with 11 rebounds and four steals against the Eagles, knows her role in helping to defend the bigger players inside.

“We have a high-risk, high-reward defense,” Ryan said. “I know there’s always going to be help side for myself so I can gamble a little bit and get in the passing lanes. The post does such a good job of fronting and denying that initial pass that when it gets thrown in, it’s our job to go in and get it and help them out a little bit.”

The Buckeyes also have some firepower in the backcourt. Junior guard Samantha Prahalis is averaging 15 points per game and dishing out a team-high six assists, and sophomore guards Brittany Johnson and Tayler Hill are both averaging over 10 points per contest.

Michigan will rely heavily on senior leader Veronica Hicks, who leads the team with 10.3 points per game, and junior guard Carmen Reynolds, who poured in 18 points in the victory over Boston College.

The Wolverines know this one will be a battle, but after finishing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country, it’s something that Michigan has grown accustomed to.

“We’ll have our hands full,” Borseth said. “But if we go out and play with energy, play aggressive, lay everything out on the floor, I think we’ll be alright. That’s really what we want to do. We want to play to win.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.