The McNeese State Cowgirls from Lake Charles, Louisiana visited Columbus, Ohio with a tall task ahead of them. The 1-3 side from the Southland Conference faced the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes. Making the task a bit taller was the fact that McNeese State’s game against Ohio State was their second in two days, as they lost to the Bradley Braves just last night. The Scarlet & Gray took care of business, winning 99-43.
In the Buckeyes last three games, an early lowlight was inefficient shooting and missing open looks. On Sunday, it looked more like the Harlem Globetrotters vs. Washington Generals on the court. Of the nine players who saw court time in the first quarter, seven hit a shot. The Buckeyes went 56% from the floor during the opening quarter.
On defense, the Buckeyes forced 16 first quarter turnovers, with McNeese taking only 14 shots, hitting three. Guard Jacy Sheldon led the Scarlet & Gray with three of the Buckeyes’ 11 first-quarter points. Even with Ohio State’s lead hitting double-digits early, they didn’t let up. The Buckeyes ended the first quarter up 35-8.
A lot of the same went into the second quarter, but to McNeese State’s credit they fought. The Cowgirls had 15 points in the second quarter, thanks to a big eight minutes by sophomore guard Kaili Chamberlin. The Oregon-native scored a floor-high 10 points, hitting both of her threes.
The Buckeyes comfortable lead turned into a team that looked comfortable on defense as well. McNeese State’s threes that they connected on in the second quarter often came without much defensive pressure at all from the Buckeyes. Still, the Buckeyes extended their lead, scoring 25 more in the second quarter. Much of that came from turnovers they pressured McNeese State into. With 4:58 left in the second, the fun the Buckeyes was having was evident.
Guard Madison Greene earned one of her two steals of the quarter and guard Taylor Mikesell turned around as she began her fast break. With Greene on the ground winning the ball, Mikesell saw the situation and started to laugh as Greene threw the basketball down the court for two of the Buckeyes 26 points off turnovers.
With 1:52 left, forward Eboni Walker, who played a season-high 10 minutes in the first half, received a beautiful pass from fellow substitute, guard Hevynne Bristow. Bristow looked forward at a defender and then sent a no-look bounce pass behind to a charging Walker.
Head coach Kevin McGuff’s side entered the locker room up 60-23, and the win sitting comfortably in their back pocket.
Starting the second half, it became more of a competitive game, not by overall score but just isolating the third quarter. The Cowgirls continued to shoot strong from three, with Chamberlin and Autumn Watts each draining from deep. The game also became a little contentious and chippy during a third-quarter MSU possession.
Ohio State forward Rebeka Mikulášiková went for the ball against McNeese’s Watts, and what initially looked like a jump ball ended up being a foul on the Buckeyes. After the whistle, with the Buckeyes now up 40 points, Watts kept holding onto the ball and Mikulášiková didn’t relent. It didn't escalate further, but the tension felt by a McNeese State team that’s struggled this season was very evident.
With three minutes left in the third quarter, the Buckeyes were only outscoring the visitors 11-8. McNeese continued to play from behind and didn’t outscore Ohio State in the third, but entering the fourth quarter found the three ball was working against the Scarlet & Gray. McGuff’s team didn’t close down the final shooter, leading to the Cowgirls hitting 7-for-15 going into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth, Ohio State began killing the clock, making the most of the 29-second shot clock, but on the cusp of 100 points, they still had their eyes on making shots. With 4:32 left in the game, the Buckeyes had eclipsed 90 points.
With a minute and a half remaining, it looked like Ohio State wouldn’t reach triple-digits, but a local high school state champion, freshman Perry, earned her first NCAA points and got the game a bit closer. Like Henderson against the Ohio University Bobcats, Perry grabbed a steal at mid court and ran in a layup, with a trip to the line. Perry missed the free throw.
Next it was Bristow, getting them to 98 on a contested layup, on top of a seven-rebound game. Bristow hit a subsequent free throw but Ohio State couldn’t get one more, winning 99-43.
For just about every competitive game, there’s a reason to play. It was evident early that Sunday’s game didn’t have one, at least on the surface. The Buckeyes were the far and away stronger team, and made problems for McNeese immediately.
Finding value in Ohio State’s win was two-fold. Staying healthy is the first and most important thing, and the Buckeyes almost came out fully intact. Many of the turnovers created by the Buckeyes were accompanied by scuffles on the floor for the ball, with McNeese players falling and colliding with Ohio State players.
At the end of the third, substitute guard Emma Shumate got the worst of a collision and needed help walking off the court. The Newark, Ohio guard was emotional leaving the game, holding her back and not returning to the game.
The second was building on depth.
Strengthening the Roster
Forward Eboni Walker played a season-high in minutes on Sunday, after transferring from Syracuse University in the summer and returning to college basketball after sustaining a season-ending injury. She would finish with seven points, six rebounds, and four assists.
Also, back-up guards, Kaia Henderson, Kaitlyn Costner and Mya Perry each logged their most minutes of the season, albeit mostly in the fourth quarter when the game was the furthest out of reach.
The Scarlet & Gray have one more game before Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday. On Wednesday, Wright State University from down the road in Dayton, Ohio makes the short trip to Columbus for a 3:00 p.m. tip that you can watch exclusively on BTN+.
Ohio State will have one more game after Thanksgiving, on Sunday against the North Alabama Lions, before Tuesday, Nov. 30’s big match-up against the No. 6 Louisville Cardinals. Sunday’s home game against North Alabama tips off at 1:00 p.m. and will also be broadcast on BTN+.