December 3, 2023
Big Ten roundup: Ohio State beats Tennessee on the road, Michigan State rolling and Mackenzie’s ‘Holmescoming’
Several teams pick up exciting road wins as conference play gets closer
Things were a bit quieter this week after the chaos of Thanksgiving tournaments, but there were still several notable storylines to come out of the Big Ten. Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes brought the Hoosiers back to her home state of Maine, Michigan State steamrolled DePaul and Ohio State picked up a 20-point road win over No. 20 Tennessee.
Here’s your week four roundup of Big Ten action:
Ranked road win for Ohio State
The Buckeyes’ ranked matchup with Tennessee on Sunday was the first they’ve played in since the season-opening 83–74 loss to Southern California, and they continued their strong play to extend their win streak to six. Ohio State’s high-pressure defense forced 20 Tennessee turnovers, while sophomore forward Cotie McMahon had 19 points and seven rebounds in the 78–58 victory.
Duke transfer Celeste Taylor also turned in her best performance since joining the Buckeyes, with 15 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals.
After a matchup with Ohio University on Tuesday, Ohio State will open up Big Ten play with an intriguing battle against upstart Penn State next Sunday.
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Robyn Fralick’s Spartans dominating early
Michigan State entered 2023–24 with a new head coach and a whole bunch of question marks around how quickly Robyn Fralick could move things in the right direction. Although the Spartans haven’t been tested in Big Ten play yet, it’s hard not to be impressed with what they’ve done so far.
On Thursday, they took down DePaul on the road, 102–64, to improve to 6–1. Now 7–1 after a win on Sunday over Miami Ohio, the Spartans have an average margin of victory of 35.1 points per game, the fourth-best mark in the country.
Led by senior guard DeeDee Hagemann averaging 14.9 points per game, Fralick’s also received tremendous contributions from graduate guards Moira Joiner and Julia Ayrault and sophomore guard Abbey Kimball.
Last season, while at Bowling Green, Fralick had five players that averaged double figures in scoring; through the first month of her tenure in East Lansing, she has four, with graduate guard Tory Ozment nearly the fifth, sitting at 9.8 points per game.
Other notable headlines
Holmes leads Indiana to comeback in Maine
One of the top post players in the country had the chance to teach her teammates and coaches a little bit more about where she grew up during the Hoosiers’ journey to Portland to play UMaine. Mackenzie Holmes, a Gorham native, played in state championships year after year at Cross Insurance Arena; on Thursday night, she had 22 points (on 9-of-11 shooting), seven rebounds and two blocks in Indiana’s 67–59 comeback win over the Black Bears.
“Just extremely grateful that we had this opportunity,” Holmes said after the win. “This was a great environment for women’s basketball, and just to be able to come back here and play probably my last game ever in Cross Insurance [Arena] is just incredible.”
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Minnesota’s Mara Braun shines in double OT thriller
Like Michigan State, Minnesota’s off to a 7–1 start under new head coach Dawn Plitzuweit, and no win for the Gophers was more impressive than their 94–88 double overtime victory over Drake on Saturday. Sophomore guard Mara Braun had 33 points, including 4-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc, as well as four rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
Minnesota trailed the Bulldogs 61–52 entering the fourth quarter but rallied to force OT and eventually eked out a six-point win.
It’s still unclear how good the Gophers will be once conference play starts. Questions about their depth remain — only six players scored in the win on Saturday and Braun played all 50 minutes. But this is a team that’s started off about as well as could’ve been expected after last year’s 13th-place finish in the Big Ten.
Michigan gets scare from Harvard, rallies for road win
The Crimson led 37–35 at halftime on Saturday but lost its top scorer, Harmoni Turner, to injury in the second quarter. Michigan outscored Harvard 45–29 in the second half to rally for a 14-point win and move to 7–1 this year.
The Wolverines are in a position where anything from a top-five Big Ten finish to a more mediocre seventh- or eighth-place would not be fully surprising. Their offense has generally been fine, but not spectacular, and they’ve relied disproportionately on Laila Phelia to carry the load. She’s the only player averaging double figures in scoring on the roster, though Missouri-transfer Lauren Hansen is coming off two straight double-digit scoring performances, so perhaps she’s starting to settle into the offense as the Big Ten season approaches.
Notable games coming up this week:
- Monday: Penn State plays West Virginia at 6 p.m. ET
- Wednesday: Iowa plays Iowa State at 7 p.m. ET
- Saturday: Nebraska plays Michigan State at 2 p.m. ET
- Sunday: Penn State plays Ohio State at 1 p.m. ET
- Sunday: Purdue plays Minnesota at 2 p.m. ET
- Sunday: Michigan plays Illinois at 3 p.m. ET
Written by Eric Rynston-Lobel
Eric Rynston-Lobel has been a contributor to The Next since August 2022. He covered Northwestern women's basketball extensively in his four years as a student there for WNUR and now works as a sports reporter for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.