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Ohio State women's basketball focused on improving defense before Michigan rematch

Bailey Johnson
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State and forward Rebeka Mikulasikova (23) know they'll have to do a better job defensively on Sunday on Michigan forward Naz Hillmon (00), who torched the Buckeyes for 50 points in OSU's 81-77 victory on Jan. 21.

Coming into a game Thursday against Ohio State, the Purdue women's basketball team was averaging a mere 61.6 points per game. Then the Buckeyes allowed the Boilermakers to score 85 points — their second-highest point total this season — in a 100-85 OSU win.

Though Ohio State won comfortably and led by as many as 25 points in the fourth quarter, coach Kevin McGuff knows the defensive performance his team turned in against Purdue won't cut it on the road against Michigan on Sunday.

"We’ll have to be significantly better on the defensive end to be successful in Ann Arbor," McGuff said. "We’ll make sure that we show up and we really work hard on our preparation the next couple of days and go up there and compete."

When Ohio State and Michigan played in Columbus in January, the Buckeyes won, 81-77, but Wolverines forward Naz Hillmon scored 50 points in that game — the third-most points scored in a single game in Big Ten history.

On Thursday, Purdue center Fatou Diagne scored 21 points and the Boilermakers scored 48 of their 85 points in the paint, which shows that the Buckeyes' struggles to defend the post may not be isolated to just Hillmon's record-setting game.

McGuff is well aware of the challenge his team will face in containing Hillmon in the post — and of the importance of playing better defense against the Wolverines as a whole.

"We’re going to have to be good in post defense," McGuff said. "We know how good Naz Hillmon is and what her game was like (when we played) here, so that’ll be an area where we’ve got to improve. I think overall, in general, we’re going to have to just be really sound on that end of the floor."

The Buckeyes presumably will still be without Madison Greene, the team's third-leading scorer and one of its most important defensive players, for the rematch against the Wolverines.

That means the other players, including freshman guard Kateri Poole, who made her first career start in Greene's place on Thursday, will have to step up to fill that gap. 

"Obviously, missing Madison was huge," senior guard Braxtin Miller said. "I think that in the future, we definitely have to get better defensively. We needed some better stops tonight and a lot of that came from guards, but posts as well. We'll work on it, but missing her is hard for us defensively."

bjohnson@gannett.com

@baileyajohnson_

No. 15 Ohio State at No. 11 Michigan

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

TV: ESPN2

Radio: WBNS-AM (1460)