A doubleheader Sunday at Nationwide Arena bears the name “Countdown to Columbus” — as a precursor to the Women’s Final Four, which will take place there next spring — and the two games are showcase of a few Final Four-caliber teams.
It’s a taste of the NCAA Tournament in another sense for the Ohio State women’s basketball team.
Similar to the structure of the three NCAA Tournament weekends, No. 5 Ohio State plays its second game of the season, against a talented Louisville team, less than 48 hours after defeating No. 10 Stanford 85-64 at St. John Arena.
The Buckeyes outrebounded, outhustled and outperformed a young Stanford team. Ohio State gave Stanford what Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer termed “a bloody nose,” but it’s a game the Buckeyes will have to forget about to avoid a letdown on Sunday.
“As I told the team, we didn’t go over everything they’re going to do,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said of Louisville. “There will be a lot of things we didn’t talk about, we didn’t cover, and that’s just the nature of having one day to prepare. We have to make sure we play really hard. We’re going to make some mistakes, so hopefully we can make up for it with great effort and intensity.”
Sorry, but your browser does not support frames.
No. 9 Louisville (1-0) will challenge Ohio State (1-0) with a balanced approach. A Sweet 16 team last year, the Cardinals were 27th in scoring offense (74.6 points per game) while also not sacrificing too much on defense, where they allowed 61.0, 85th in Division I.
Junior Asia Durr is one of the most talented guards in the country, and 6-foot-2 senior forward Myisha Hines-Allen provides experience and poise in the post. Neither had to flash too many of those talents Friday in an 80-40 rout of Southeast Missouri State, a game in which no Louisville starter played more than 20 minutes.
Ohio State likewise won comfortably in its season opener, but a smaller rotation logged more mileage. Forward Stephanie Mavunga had the lightest minutes load of any starter at 29 minutes.
“Obviously, we had some people log some heavy minutes (on Friday) so we’re trying to not do too much, but we certainly have a lot to cover with a really good Louisville team coming in,” McGuff said. “We practiced but tried not to overdo it. But everybody was good, they were in good spirits. I think our focus and intensity was good.”
McGuff is good friends with Louisville coach Jeff Walz, and at least a few of his players are familiar with the 11th-year coach. Guards Linnae Harper and Kelsey Mitchell played for Walz on the U-23 National Team over the summer, and Harper faced his Louisville teams as an in-state rival while playing for Kentucky.
“Every time we played Louisville it was a great matchup,” Harper said of her Kentucky days. “They play really, really hard and I think it’s going to be a great matchup for our team.”