It was a festive, yuletide feeling inside the Schottenstein Center leading into Friday night’s Ohio State women’s basketball game. With Christmas music blaring and fake snow graphics donning the video board, the Buckeyes welcomed UAlbany for the last Ohio State home game until New Year’s Eve. Even though the Great Danes gave the home team a challenge, Ohio State wasn’t in the giving spirit, beating the Great Danes 82-57.
Although the Buckeyes had a positive result, a negative was the continued absence of guard Jacy Sheldon. During pregame warm-ups, Sheldon stood off-court not putting pressure on her right leg, on crutches. In past games, the guard wore a smaller boot without the crutches, a troubling sign for Sheldon who’s currently week-to-week according to head coach Kevin McGuff.
The Buckeyes had a challenge ahead of them, against a University at Albany team who plays the Princeton offensive system. In other words, they play with a lot of off-the-ball movement, multiple on and off-the-ball screens, and work to exploit mismatches.
Stepping up early though Friday night was forward Cotie McMahon. The Dayton-area freshman scored the first nine points for Ohio State, and 11 in the quarter.
Defensively, a team that’s struggled in half-court defense this year played a good first quarter, forcing six turnovers. Part of those turnovers though was the Great Danes making poor passes and turning the ball over needlessly. The Scarlet & Gray went into the second quarter up 21-12, but Albany wouldn’t be down for long.
It took almost three minutes for Ohio State to score a point in the second half, Instead, Albany created open looks in the halfcourt, and cut a nine-point deficit into a three-point lead.
Part of that deficit cut came from poor shooting for the home team. Ohio State missed their first five shots from deep. Combine that with the Great Danes isolating, hitting shots, and getting a few lucky bounces and a comfortable first quarter turned into a considerably less comfortable second.
Getting the Scarlet & Gray back into the lead was McMahon. After guard Taylor Mikesell hit a game-tying three going into the second-quarter media timeout, McMahon scored the next five points. Going into the locker room with Ohio State up 34-31, McMahon scored 17 points and had four rebounds. She was the difference for the Buckeyes between going into the third quarter either up or down.
The last time the Buckeyes played a team from the America East, Ohio State came out in the second half and held the New Hampshire Wildcats to seven points in two quarters. The Scarlet & Gray hoped for another turnaround against the Danes.
While the Buckeyes didn’t hold the Danes to seven second-half points, they came out with renewed focus in the second half on defense. Ohio State held UAlbany to 12 points in the quarter and played more sound offense.
It started right away with McMahon, who seems to have a knack for starting halves strong. The forward hit a layup, grabbed a steal in the Buckeyes' offensive zone, and found Mikesell for the layup. All within 15 seconds.
McMahon started a third quarter where Ohio State scored 25 points, and leading the way was guard Madison Greene. The Pickerington, Ohio native kept calm even as the Scarlet & Gray were underperforming. In the quarter she scored seven and added three steals.
Ohio State had trouble guarding one player on UAlbany, Swedish forward Helene Haegerstrand. The 6-foot-1 playmaker was strong in the paint, scoring six of her 21 points in the third.
Even so, coach McGuff bounced back from a tough first half and entered the fourth quarter up 59-43, with one quarter left to build some consistency.
Although she started the game slowly, Mikesell grew the lead quickly in the fourth quarter. The guard hit two threes in the first 2:30 of the quarter, plus a fast break layup to get Ohio State into a more comfortable 24-point lead.
From there, Ohio State kept the momentum and replaces starters with bench players for the remaining four minutes of the game. Part of that bench was forward Eboni Walker, who played more minutes with forward Rebeka Mikulášiková having an off night, scoring four points total.
Walker had six points, three rebounds and two steals for her most productive game as an upperclassmen transfer from Syracuse University.
The Buckeyes pulled away, ultimately coming away with a 82-57 victory.
McMahon Tear Continues
For the third game in a row, the Buckeyes’ highly-ranked freshman recruit had a game. McMahon bested her career high on offense, scoring 24 points. They mostly came from making aggressive moves to the basket and drawing fouls, creating extra point opportunities.
It was an all-around impact though for the forward. McMahon always stayed busy on defense, getting back on to cover, going after steals on the floor, and covering space on the court with her speed.
Quiet Game for Top Scorers
Entering Friday, Mikesell and Mikulášiková averaged 36.1 combined points per game for the Buckeyes. Against UAlbany, the two couldn’t find their shooting in the game. For Mikesell, who made one first-half three, the shots from beyond the arc weren’t falling, with one even creating a rare shot that didn’t touch close to the rim, sailing out of bounds.
The two had nine combined points at the end of the third quarter.
Instead of a big game by two Buckeyes, all nine players got onto the scoresheet. McMahon’s 22 points were the outlier in a game where everyone had to provide something offensively.
The Scarlet and Gray have off until Sunday, when they travel west to San Diego, California. On the schedule are two games in two days at the San Diego Invitational. Up first, on Dec. 20, is a match-up against the USF Bulls, at 6:30 p.m. ET.