As most of the Big Ten Conference was taking part in tournaments in exotic (and not-so-exotic) locations, Ohio State women’s basketball stayed close to home. With a top-10 match-up against No. 10 Louisville on the horizon, the Buckeyes played a final tune-up game, against the University of North Alabama Lions. For the sixth game in a row, Ohio State earned a double-digit win, beating the Lions 105-67.
The win definitely wasn’t guaranteed for the Buckeyes, especially with how well North Alabama came out to start the game. Leading the charge was guard/forward Skyler Gill. In the first minute of play, Gill hit her first layup attempt on the day and made a strong block under the basket on Buckeyes forward Rebeka Mikulášiková.
Gill was the highlight of the first half for the Lions, but for Ohio State, it was forward Cotie McMahon keeping the Buckeyes in the game. McMahon hit her first two threes of the game, making it the first game of her college career making multiple threes.
Joining McMahon in the first quarter scoring column was Mikulášiková. The forward hit 4-for-6 from the floor, grabbed two rebounds, and had the Buckeyes' only steal of the quarter, which was a lowlight for a Scarlet and Gray side who usually like creating the turnovers. North Alabama had only three turnovers in the first quarter, compared to four for the Buckeyes.
That meant a much closer quarter than Ohio State’s played in over three games. With 1:14 left in the first, the Lions and Buckeyes were tied with 22 points apiece. It was confident play attacking the basket that stretched the lead going into halftime.
Up first was a pair of layups for forward Taylor Thierry. The Cleveland, Ohio native hit two layups by charging the basket, putting Ohio State up four, then with only seconds on the clock, guard Madison Greene showed the home fans a sign of things to come in the second quarter.
Inbounding on the opposite side of the court, the Buckeyes moved the ball down the length of the floor and Greene hit the layup, putting Ohio State up 28-22. The Buckeyes stopped a seven-point Alabama run to end the quarter with six of their own.
The runs for North Alabama didn’t carry into the second quarter. Ohio State stretched their six-point lead up to 10 within the first minute of the second quarter. A peculiar part of the Lions’ defensive plan was leaving Thierry open.
Thierry was left open three times in the first four minutes of the quarter, with the North Alabama defense opting instead to fill the paint. With time to spare, Thierry received three passes, making a three and midrange jumper with nobody in her face, giving the forward nine points and five rebounds in the first half.
After a quiet first quarter of only three points, guard Taylor Mikesell also received looks, and once decided to shoot anyway with a defender in her face. Mikesell scored nine of her 12 first-half points in the second quarter but showed a lot in dishing the basketball, tallying three first-half assists. Ohio State stretched their six-point first-quarter lead up to 22, entering halftime up 59-37.
Starting the second half, North Alabama came out like they did in the first quarter, on the offensive. The Lions cut the lead down to 17 thanks to a pair of threes from guard Jade Moore, but Ohio State flipped the switch again, outscoring North Alabama 19-6 to end the quarter.
With just over three minutes remaining, Mikulášiková made a play that she’s starting to make regularly this season. Greene found the Slovakian forward at the top of the key, and Mikulášiková opted to charge the basket. Instead of going for the layup, aware of Gill who already had three blocks on the day at that point, sent a quick no-look pass to McMahon for a contested layup, and a trip to the free throw line.
Ohio State went into the fourth quarter with a 30-point lead that they increased in the final 10 minutes of the game.
The fight of the Lions didn’t transfer over to the fourth quarter. Instead, Thierry and the Buckeyes made North Alabama pay. The sophomore forward grabbed a steal and offensive rebound in the first half of the fourth quarter, extending her scoring on the day to 13 points.
At the final buzzer, the Buckeyes did what they intended to do on the three-game home stretch, stay undefeated and prepare for the beginning of a tougher section of the calendar that stretches into Big Ten conference play.
Buckeyes also scored triple digits in their second straight game, the first time Ohio State’s done that in program history. In their first-ever matchup between the two sides, Ohio State beat the Lions 105-67.
Leading into Sunday’s game, head coach Kevin McGuff said Ohio State needs to improve in forward play and on the boards. Against North Alabama, the Buckeyes did just that.
Mikulášiková, McMahon and Thierry controlled the game’s rebounding. Also, all three of them hit double-digits in points, with Mikulášiková and McMahon scoring 23 and 20 points respectively.
Madison Greene Continues Stellar Play
With starting guard Jacy Sheldon still out Sunday, with a lower leg injury, Ohio State had the ball in the capable hands of Greene. Starting her second game in a row, she continued where she left off from Wednesday’s win against Wright State.
Greene entered the locker room at halftime with 10 points and four assists and almost played her way to a double-double. Instead, Greene still had 15 points and seven assists in the final game before Power Five opponents hit the court.
The Buckeyes have two days off before heading down to Louisville, Kentucky on Wednesday. Coach McGuff’s side faces the No. 10 Louisville Cardinals, with it still unknown if Sheldon will be available for the ACC/B1G Challenge match-up.