Ohio State Women’s Basketball Excited to Host Caitlin Clark and Iowa In Front of Likely Record Home Crowd

By Dan Hope on January 20, 2024 at 9:05 am
Caitlin Clark vs. Ohio State in 2023
Adam Cairns – The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State women’s basketball is likely to break its home attendance record on Sunday.

Because Ohio State typically closes the upper level of the Schottenstein Center for women’s basketball games, it hasn’t come close to surpassing its women’s basketball attendance record of 17,525 fans for its 2005 home game against Penn State. On Sunday, however, Ohio State will open up Value City Arena to its full capacity of 18,600 fans when it hosts second-ranked Iowa and the biggest star in women’s college basketball, Caitlin Clark.

Ohio State announced Friday afternoon that it had sold out its full allotment of tickets, setting up the likelihood that the Buckeyes will play in front of their largest home crowd ever in a game that will also be nationally televised by NBC.

It’s a big opportunity for Ohio State to showcase its own women’s basketball program and ride the wave of growing popularity that the sport has experienced over the past couple of years. The Buckeyes are ready to embrace the increased spotlight that comes with that.

“You can see that the women's game is growing day by day, so in that aspect, it’s really cool. And then just to be able to have a whole bunch of fans in the Schott, I think that's gonna be really fun for us,” said Ohio State guard Celeste Taylor. “The energy, the crowd, whether that be against us or with us, it's gonna be great to have people watch two great teams go at it.”

18 - 1
Value City Arena
Columbus, OH

As for the game itself, Ohio State will face one of its biggest challenges of the year against the Hawkeyes, who have won their last 15 games in a row. They are 18-1 on the season overall and most of their wins haven’t been close, as they’ve averaged over 25 more points per game (90.8) than they’ve allowed (65.5).

Iowa’s success all starts with Clark, the reigning national player of the year who leads all of Division I with 31 points per game. She also ranks second in the country with 7.7 assists per game and ninth in the Big Ten with 7.2 rebounds per game.

The Buckeyes saw firsthand just how good Clark is last year when she had a pair of triple-doubles against Ohio State. She had 28 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists in a 83-72 win over the Buckeyes in Columbus last January, then followed that up with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 17 assists in a 105-72 win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament final.

Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff believes Clark has only gotten better since then.

“Obviously, she's an incredible player, always has been. But she's gotten better each year,” McGuff said. “And I think where she's impacted their program the most is just last year and then especially this year, she's making everybody around her better. And so I think early on, it was kind of, people focused on how much she was scoring, but to me, it's really about – she’s going to score, but it's really about how well she makes everybody around her better.”

While slowing down Clark will be the Buckeyes’ top priority, they know she will inevitably make her mark on the game. After all, Clark has at least 21 points in every single one of Iowa’s 19 games so far this season, with at least 26 points in each of their seven Big Ten games, all wins.

They also know they can’t focus solely on defending Clark, as she isn’t Iowa’s only dangerous scorer. Forward Hannah Stuelke (13.2 points per game) and guard Kate Martin (12.3 ppg) are also averaging double digits for the Hawkeyes.

“She's gonna score,” McGuff said of Clark. “It’s like, you're not gonna shut her out. She's gonna get points and she's just too hard to stop. I think we've got to make her earn everything that she gets, and we've got to be ready to guard everybody else around her. I think that's where they're so dangerous is when she gets 30 but Gabbie Marshall gets 20 or Martin gets 18 and Stuelke gets 14. And that's when they become really difficult to beat.”

Starting Lineup Comparison
Iowa Ohio State
Pos No. Player Ht 2023-24 Stats Pos No. Player Ht 2023-24 Stats
G 1 MOLLY DAVIS 5-7 5.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.2 APG G 4 JACY SHELDON 5-10 17.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.9 APG
G 22 CAITLIN CLARK 6-0 31 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 7.7 APG G 12 CELESTE TAYLOR 5-11 9.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.4 APG
G 24 GABBIE MARSHALL 5-9 5.3 PPG, 0.9 RPG, 1.6 APG G 2 TAYLOR THIERRY 6-1 13.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.7 APG
G 20 KATE MARTIN 6-0 12.3 PPG, 6 RPG, 2.5 APG F 32 COTIE MCMAHON 6-0 12.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.5 APG

The Buckeyes (14-3, 5-1 Big Ten) are entering Sunday’s game on a four-game winning streak. After a 69-60 loss to Michigan in their final game of 2023, they’ve responded with victories against Northwestern, Rutgers, Michigan State and Maryland. The most recent win was arguably their most impressive of the season to date as they earned their first road victory at Maryland since 2016, handing the Terrapins their first home loss of the season.

Ohio State is 0-2 this season against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25, suffering an 83-74 loss to current No. 6 USC in its season opener and a 77-71 loss to current No. 5 UCLA in December. But McGuff believes his team is more capable of beating a top-10 opponent now.

“I think we've gotten better lately. And I don't think we would have beaten Maryland three weeks ago,” McGuff said. “So I think we're getting better, especially on the road. We're getting better. We still have a ways to go. And I'm just hopeful that we can peak at the right time and I think we're heading in that direction.”

“You can see that the women's game is growing day by day, so in that aspect, it’s really cool. And then just to be able to have a whole bunch of fans in the Schott, I think that's gonna be really fun for us.”– Celeste Taylor on Ohio State’s expected record crowd Sunday

McGuff says he isn’t thinking much about last year’s losses entering this year’s matchup with Iowa, feeling that his team – currently ranked 18th in the country – is different now than it was a year ago. But last season’s results will serve as added motivation for his players as they look to earn a signature win against one of the nation’s best teams.

“The losses last year to them really stung. But I think it really humbled us, and it really brought us actually closer as a team,” said Ohio State wing Taylor Thierry. “We've improved, we've added new assets to this team. So I think we've prepared really well for this game and we’re excited.”

Sunday’s game is set for a noon tipoff on NBC. Fans attending the game are encouraged to arrive early, with Schottenstein Center doors opening at 10:30 a.m. Additional gameday information can be found on Ohio State’s official athletics website.

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