Iowa standout will test OSU

Jeff Thitoff The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State guard Carmen Grande is tied for the Big Ten lead in assists. [Brooke LaValley]

Ohio State will go against a record-setting player Sunday when No. 16 Iowa comes to Value City Arena for a Big Ten women’s basketball game.

The Buckeyes will counter with a standout of their own.

The Hawkeyes (18-5, 9-3) have their all-time leading scorer and rebounder in Megan Gustafson, but Ohio State (10-11, 6-6) boasts the current active leader in assists in all of college basketball — men’s or women’s — in Carmen Grande.

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Grande had four assists Wednesday in a 78-73 win over Penn State, giving her 803 for her career. The 5-foot-8 graduate transfer from Ball State is tied for the lead in the Big Ten with 5.0 assists per game.

Grande was surprised when told of the career milestone.

“It just happened, I didn’t even know,” Grande said. “I just try to attack and try to draw something and then find an open teammate.”

Coach Kevin McGuff said Grande’s role as a distributor has been important.

“She has a great feel for the game and understands what she is supposed to be doing,” McGuff said. “And she knows what everyone else is supposed to be doing, so she gets the ball to the right people at the right time and in the right place.”

Ohio State will need Grande to find the right person often as the Buckeyes will have their hands full on defense with the 6-foot-3 Gustafson. She leads the nation in scoring, averaging 27.2 points. She also averages 12.7 rebounds and shoots 70.4 percent from the field.

Gustafson has 2,429 points and 1,270 rebounds for her career and is coming off a 41-point, 14-rebound performance in a 86-71 win over Michigan State on Thursday. In last season’s 103-89 win over Ohio State, she scored 29 points in 31 minutes.

“I don’t know that you stop her, but I hope we make her earn it,” McGuff said. “The biggest concern is she draws a lot of fouls and we’ve gotten in foul trouble lately with our post players.”

Ohio State’s Makayla Waterman, a 6-foot-2 senior, set a career high with 18 points against Illinois and then topped that with 19 against Penn State.