The Ohio State Buckeyes faced the UAlbany Great Danes on Friday, on princess night inside the Schottenstein Center. What the Scarlet & Gray found out was that the Danes were a royal pain for much of the game, but Ohio State continued their ascent towards the throne of college basketball’s elite.
Here’s what stood out.
Half Court Defense
It’s not the most exciting way to kick off game notes, but a key to Ohio State’s success this season is a strong pressing attack. On Wednesday, head coach Kevin McGuff discussed at length the other part of their defense — the half court.
Full court press requires players, especially guards, to turn the intensity up another level and frustrate and confuse opponents. Once that press is broken though, the half court enters the conversation.
UAlbany provided a test for the Buckeyes on Friday, playing the Princeton offense, which means a lot of off the ball movement, screens and a system built to confuse defenses and create isolation. It also creates mismatches. Defenses need to be on their toes, watching their player or zone and following the movement closely. For much of the night, Ohio State played it well, except the second quarter.
“For us in the first half, we kinda broke down towards the end of the shot clock,” said guard Madison Greene. “We didn’t really play hard for the 30 seconds and we would let them get offensive rebounds. He (McGuff) got kind of mad at us, that we weren’t executing it right.”
That second quarter had the Danes scoring 19 points, their high for a quarter on the night. Pair that with Ohio State’s worst quarter, scoring 13, and there’s no shock that the Buckeyes fell behind against the visitors.
To UAlbany’s credit, they’re no slouch in the America East conference. Projected to top the conference, and add to their 2021-22 season that saw the Danes earn a spot in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, but it goes back to the Buckeyes’ energy. When all five players on the court want to win, they’re hard to stop. When they underestimate an opponent, you get Friday’s second quarter.
I just said at halftime, ‘they’re more committed to running good offense than we are committed to stopping them,’” said McGuff. “‘And until that changes, the game’s not going to go the way we want.’”
The Great Danes shot their most shots in the second quarter (15), hit their highest field goal percentage (53.5%) and Ohio State forced their fewest turnovers of any quarter (2). In the second half, Ohio State limited shots to 25 and forced 12 turnovers. When defensive commitment was there, the Buckeyes started pulling away.
“The Most Exciting 10 Seconds in Basketball”
There were four different storylines surrounding the offense on Friday, and the biggest was freshman forward Cotie McMahon’s 24-point evening.
“You know, the Kentucky Derby they have ‘the most exciting two minutes in sports,’” said MccGuff. “Well we have the most exciting 10 seconds in women’s basketball.”
Q1 | Start us off with the AND 1‼️ #GoBucks @cotiemcmahon23 pic.twitter.com/K5Dh9RJAxD— Ohio State WBB (@OhioStateWBB) December 16, 2022
That’s in reference to McMahon, who not only charged down the court, like she has all season in layup attempts, but added more on Friday.
“When I first got here and first started playing I would just attack and just go go,” said McMahon. “I feel like I’ve been more patient with that to one — have the ability to score off that or two — be able to look and kick. I feel like tonight I really enforced that with my game and really showed it on the floor.”
McMahon’s brought intensity to defense all year, but there’s been a marked change for the forward on offense in the past two weeks. In the first seven games of the season, McMahon averaged 8.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1 assist per game. In the last four games, McMahon’s scored 14.2 points, grabbed 6.3 rebounds and dished 3.8 assists per game.
In that stretch, it seems like the start of every half includes McMahon controlling the game for the first minute. Now, the Buckeyes are hoping the team around McMahon can keep that intensity during the good and bad shooting nights.
Madison Greene Calms OSU with Aggressive Play
Another key piece of Ohio State pulling away in the second half was the third quarter play of guard Madison Greene. Starting her sixth game in place of the injured Jacy Sheldon, Greene scored 11 points on the night, and seven came in the third.
“My teammates really wanted me to attack more and find my own ways to score,” said Greene about halftime adjustments. “I was trying to get them open and I wasn’t really being aggressive myself, so I tried to do that.”
Greene made passes to find open teammates in the first half, but the shots weren’t falling, especially in the second quarter where the Buckeyes shot 38.5%. In the third quarter, Greene hit only two shots in the run of play but one was a three and Greene got to the free throw line.
The Pickerington, Ohio guard was perfect in shooting for the quarter and missing only one shot in fourth quarter.
That aggressive play wasn’t only offensive. With her lowest assist number of the season on Friday (1), she thrived in another area where she was in full control — steals. Greene grabbed a season high six on the way to a Buckeyes night with 25 points off turnovers.
.@basketball4mg is fighting for every inch of her home court!! #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/Va5KpwymXY— Ohio State WBB (@OhioStateWBB) December 17, 2022
Team Offense Fills Gaps
Wednesday, McMahon shared moments that showed her what the team chemistry is all about at Ohio State. Part of those moments was a game against Rutgers University where guard Taylor Mikesell and forward Rebeka Mikulášiková scored 61 of the Buckeyes 82 points, lifting the team to victory. On Friday, it was the opposite way around.
Mikesell and Mikulášiková entered halftime with three points total, a Mikesell three in the second quarter. Combined the two shot 1-for-11 in the first 20 minutes of the game, with nine missed threes between the two.
“T. Mike and Rebeka have been great this year, especially on offense,” said Coach McGuff. “They’re a huge part of what we do and that was the other thing, with them not making some shots that they normally make, it allowed Albany to hang around there in the first half.”
Ohio State can almost take solace though in winning a game without their two top scorers running the show. McMahon’s 24 points and nine total Buckeyes getting on the stat sheet overcame a 17-point night for Mikesell and Mikulášiková.
Overall, Mikesell had a stronger second half, scoring 13 points. Mikesell hit both threes she attempted in the half and went 4-for-6 in the third and fourth quarters combined. Mikulášiková’s four points all came early in the third quarter, part of Ohio State swinging the momentum in their favor.
Jacy Sheldon Injury Watch
This week, McGuff downgraded Sheldon from day-to-day to week-to-week with a lower leg injury. Friday, Sheldon still had on the same boot, but instead of walking with the boot like in week’s past, the guard was on crutches, not adding any weight to her right leg.
Barring a huge turnaround, it’s not a good sign that Sheldon will be available for next week’s San Diego Invitational, potentially missing games against the USF Bulls and possibly a match-up against No. 16 Oregon Ducks in the second game.
Highlight Reel Team Work
Having a relatively quieter night was forward Taylor Thierry. The Cleveland, Ohio forward scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds, still a good game for the sophomore but under her breakout season averages.
However, Thierry was part of a play that showed the athleticism referenced by coach McGuff.
The princesses may be a fairytale royalty, but on the court, they reign supreme with a thunderous alley-oop pass fit for a queen!#GoBucks pic.twitter.com/y4jBjBAvHp— Ohio State WBB (@OhioStateWBB) December 17, 2022