On Tuesday, it took five quarters, a key injury and late magic for the Ohio State women’s basketball team to beat the USF Bulls in the San Diego Invitational. Less than 24 hours later, the Scarlet & Gray were back at it, this time against guard Taylor Mikesell’s former team, the No. 16 Oregon Ducks.
It was a game with a lot of hype based on the past experience of Mikesell and her teammate’s support in wanting the Ducks. Ohio State followed through with their desire to play and beat Oregon, winning 84-67 against the Pac-12 opponent.
With guard Madison Greene out, and the team announcing they’d have her checked by medical staff when Ohio State returns to Columbus, Rikki Harris stepped into the starting lineup. It was another guard standing out early though for the Buckeyes — the former Duck.
Mikesell scored 10 points in the first quarter, a far cry from her eight total points in the USF overtime victory. Part of those 10 were two three-point shots, shooting 4-for-5 overall. The Northeast Ohioan looked motivated after two rough scoring outings in a row.
Joining Mikesell in the Buckeyes’ early scoring was forward Rebeka Mikulášiková. After averaging 14.8 points on the year, the forward scored only two points Wednesday. Mikulášiková had nine herself, and Ohio State took a 25-23 lead into the second quarter.
To start the second quarter, forward Taylor Thierry joined the fun, and got going quickly. Thierry scored five points early, including a free throw. Even adding a three with the Ducks defense leaving her wide open, and gave her time to set her feet and shoot.
It was a game that Ohio State seemed to finally have the energy early that head coach Kevin McGuff’s hoped for from his side. There was still plenty of basketball to be played, but Ohio State brought intensity and made things difficult for the Ducks on defense.
Halfway into the quarter, the Buckeyes held Oregon to four points, compared to 15 points for Ohio State. The Scarlet & Gray had 10 and five-point runs with 15 assists to start the game. That 15 compared to 13 overall in four quarters and overtime against the Bulls.
On the other side of the court, the Buckeyes stifled the Ducks. Ohio State got hands in the face of defenders and minimized open shots. After a first quarter with Oregon shooting 58.8%, the defense held the Ducks to 40% and Ohio State’s 29-14 second quarter put the McGuff’s side up 54-37 going into the halftime locker room.
Ohio State came out of halftime and added another five points, including a third three-pointer on the night for Mikesell. Oregon was forced into an early third quarter timeout to adjust and thats when forward Grace VanSlooten took the offense into her own hands.
The Toledo, Ohio freshman star scored six straight points, cutting the Buckeyes’ lead down under 20 points, trimming it to 16. Ohio State called a timeout after a run of five misses and three turnovers, hoping to find their first half form offensively and defensively.
Shooting-wise, things went cold. By the time the Ducks cut the lead down to 10, Ohio State was 1-for-13, scoring five points in the quarter. The Buckeyes needed to avoid another frame like that if they wanted to continue their undefeated streak to start the year, entering the fourth up 10 points.
Oregon started quickly, hitting a three to get that lead back to single digits. A 15-point run put the Buckeyes on the ropes, but Ohio State started to respond. It began with another three by Mikulášiková, and then guard Hevynne Bristow making the most of her minutes in a big game.
Bristow hit two layups, a free throw and put herself into situations to score potentially more, if not for some more errant passing. Off one of those bad passes came another technical for coach Kevin McGuff. After getting one Tuesday for frustration late in the game, forward Cotie McMahon passed quickly, and from point blank range to Bristow.
The ball went out of bounds and McGuff leapt in frustration. That forced a whistle against the coach, and stunned looks from the bench on why he was whistled for showing some emotion. To the referee’s credit, McGuff leapt a good couple feet onto the court.
To the coach’s credit though, Ohio State players responded and pushed the lead back up to 16 points with 3:58 left in the game. It was the Taylors doing it. First, Mikesell hit a layup on the fast break off a no-look pass by Bristow. Then, Thierry hit an uncontested layup under the basket on a second chance.
It looked like Ohio State weathered the storm, but VanSlooten and the Ducks showed in the third that they have the ability to trim a lead down.
Mikulášiková and Mikesell each threes down the stretch, and ballooned the lead back up. Ohio State got their win, beating the Ducks 84-67.
Mikesell Beats the Ducks
After three straight games where it looked like Mikesell was slightly off her game, the guard came up big against her former side. Even with teammates talking about how much they wanted to face the Ducks, the pressure didn’t turn into locker room material for Oregon.
Instead, Mikesell scored 25 points on the night, with Mikulášiková adding 27 points. Both hit five three-point shots, and for one night, Mikesell got the last laugh after a seemingly difficult year in green and yellow.
Mikesell added six assists and five rebounds to a well-rounded performance.
Rikki Harris Steps In and Up
The obvious concern for Ohio State on Wednesday was at point guard. Harris stepped in for Greene and Sheldon, and even though Harris hasn’t played much point guard since high school, there was production early.
Harris went into halftime with eight assists. That was good enough for a career high with half the game still to go.
While Harris’ offensive play wasn’t flashy, the guard made good decisions early, not giving up a turnover in the first 20 minutes of the game.
Ohio State heads home for a week off before another game. That game comes Dec. 28, against the Northwestern Wildcats (6-5).
Time off will benefit the Buckeyes, giving Sheldon a few days to heal and allowing doctors to diagnose Greene’s injury. Also, it allows Harris to develop further as a point guard in coach McGuff’s system.
The Buckeyes return home on New Year’s Eve, when they face the Michigan Wolverines at the Covelli Center for a 1:00 p.m. ET tip. Giving the team and fans plenty of time to prepare afterwards for the ball to drop, and the calendar to flip from 2022 to 2023.