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Game Notes: No. 3 Ohio State women’s basketball survives Michigan State

The Buckeyes struggled offensively but still pulled away with their first home conference win of the season

Ben Cole - Land-Grant Holy Land

Until Sunday, the Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball team won every game by double-digits. Against the Michigan State Spartans, the game started strong in the Buckeyes’ favor but it was anyone’s game until the final seconds.

Here are notes from the 74-68 win, including an update on guard Jacy Sheldon.

Weird Win

Overall, the Buckeyes win felt weird. So far in the 2022-23 season, it’s been a few big runs, a lot of frustrating press against the opposition, and a mostly comfortable win at the sound of the final buzzer. Sunday was different.

Ohio State was up and down in their shooting, scoring 29 of their 74 points in the first quarter and never hitting 20 points a quarter in the three quarters that followed. Even then, the Buckeyes were more efficient in shooting, 41.7% to 40.9%.

All game it felt like the Buckeyes were turning the ball over (20 on the day), but still forced 22 against Sparty.

It’s a win that Ohio State needed, really. Even going down against teams like Tennessee and Louisville, they surged back to win. A close game puts things into perspective.

“We showed really good competitive character,” said McGuff. “We have a lot to work on, it’s nice to be able to do it off of a win, but there’s a lot of areas we got to improve.”

Not only perspective, but the game, even with its flaws and areas of improvement, is a positive this early in the season.

“You want to have that adversity,” said guard Taylor Mikesell. “It would be wrong if we were in our March form right now, so there’s always going to be some growing pains and adversity that might stump us at times but I’m happy with how we fought tonight.”

Taylor Thierry Leads NCAA

Last season, head coach Kevin McGuff didn't put a ceiling on the future of forward Taylor Thierry’s abilities. Often lauded as the most athletic player on the court, Thierry started her freshman 21/22 season on the bench, but turned into an integral seventh player on the court, often impacting the game defensively over scoring. An offseason in college can make all the difference.

Today, Thierry leads the NCAA in field goal percentage, hitting 73% of her 74 shots on the season. On Sunday, Thierry led the way for the second time this season in scoring, but did it through another game of making high-percentage shots, hitting 76.9% of her shots.

Thierry led all players on the court with 21 points, with one three snuck in that total for good measure. The forward found space and charged the basket with confidence, opting for her underhand layup more often than not and grabbing nine rebounds, one away from her first career double-double.

When the Spartans fought back, and the Buckeyes had trouble buying a bucket, it was Thierry breaking the deadlock. In the first quarter, Michigan State got within two points, after an early back-and-forth between the two teams. Thierry scored six of the final 10 points of the quarter, extending the first-quarter lead to 12.

Then, in the third quarter, a fast break by Thierry stopped a nine-point Michigan State run. After the game, Thierry picked up another dub chain for her efforts.

Madison Greene Free Throw Dominance

Between the two teams on Sunday, 40 fouls were called. Michigan State had 22 of those personal fouls, and 12 fouls went against Buckeyes’ guard Madison Greene. Starting for her third game in a row, Greene scored 15 points but grabbed 12 of them from the free throw line.

Greene had six in the first quarter alone, in a game where Ohio State took advantage of a quick whistle reflex by officials. In the bonus, Greene charged the rim and genuinely frustrated defenders into fouls.

On the day, Greene had another strong performance. Even though Greene had more turnovers than any other game this season, giving the ball up four times, the guard more than made up for it with five steals and five assists, including a no-look pass at the buzzer, finding Thierry under the basket for a buzzer-beating layup.

Cotie McMahon on the Precipice

In match-ups where the Buckeyes were down or fighting in closer games, freshman forward Cotie McMahon’s taken a bench seat to allow experience to right the Scarlet and Gray’s ship. Sunday, McMahon played a game that allowed her to be the one on the court for the final minutes of the game, as the Spartans battled.

McMahon got the game going from the tip, going at the basket, missing a layup but getting her own rebound-induced second-chance attempt. Overall, McMahon’s scoring hit eight points, but each one had highlight reel potential.

The Dayton, Ohio forward played eight minutes of the final quarter, when the Buckeyes needed performances. McMahon provided one outside of scoring.

It’s hit or miss if Ohio State wins the rebounding game, currently sitting at a +0.7 margin. Going into the halftime locker room, Michigan State was up eight rebounds but McMahon helped change the script.

The Buckeyes outrebounded Sparty 25-15 in the second half, and McMahon grabbed six of her 10 rebounds on the day in the fourth quarter. There’s still plenty of time for McMahon’s offensive game to find its mark, but overall the top-25 recruit in the nation is growing into her role as a future leader with the Scarlet & Gray.

Struggling Deep

What stood out in the Buckeyes' scoring was shooting three-point attempts. The way Ohio State played wasn’t in line what coach McGuff wants to see, including getting good chances from deep.

“We had some great stretches where we were really good, then we would get away from execution, and moving the ball,” said McGuff. “We have to be able to sustain who we are for longer stretches.”

The Buckeyes had 22 shots from deep, making only six. Outside of two from forward Rebeka Mikulášiková to start the third quarter, there never seemed to be a string of them to rip the motivation away from the opposition.

From the starting group, Mikesell went 2-for-9 and Greene and McMahon each attempted a shot from behind the arc but missed. Ohio State shot 38% from deep going into the game against Michigan State. If they shot even that, it’d be six more points on the board and potentially not having to hold on tight at the end of the game.

Part of that was extra attention on Mikesell by the high-pressured Spartans' defense often double-teaming her from deep. However, more passing and patient offensive build-up in the half-court can also give other players open looks.

Taylor Mikesell Ices the Victory

Even if shooting from deep was tough for Mikesell, in the highest-pressure moments of the last 23 seconds of the game, Mikesell was the difference. In the bonus, Sparty sent Mikesell to the line for four free throws. The graduate senior transfer from Oregon hit all four, putting Ohio State up four points with 15 seconds remaining.

“She has nerves of steel, said McGuff. “It’s great to have her on our side.”

Mikesell still had 16 points on the day, plus a season-high seven rebounds. Even if the three isn’t falling for the guard, Mikesell’s always making a game-changing impact for the Buckeyes.

Jacy Sheldon Status Updated

A name left off the roster for Sunday’s win was guard Jacy Sheldon. Out with a lower leg injury, Sheldon had to sit on the sidelines and cheer for her team instead of forcing rebounds and making shots.

Jacy Sheldon, middle, sits with a boot on her leg watching the Ohio State game against Michigan State.
Ben Cole - Land-Grant Holy Land

Sheldon missed two games before going down to then-No. 18 Louisville and playing over 30 minutes. It felt like Sheldon was going to sit out some of the easier games for Ohio State and then possibly take the court for games like Sunday, but it didn’t come to fruition.

After the game, coach McGuff changed her status from day-to-day to week-to-week, not giving a timeline on the guard’s return.

It’s early in the season, with plenty of time for Sheldon to heal. For now, it looks like the Buckeyes aren’t taking any chances with the unanimous First Team All-B1G star.