Last week, the Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball team traveled to the West Coast’s warm temperatures for the San Diego Invitational. Wednesday, they returned to the cold midwest for the restart of Big Ten play, but their play didn’t cool down, beating the Northwestern Wildcats 81-48.
The game started with bad news for Ohio State, with guard Jacy Sheldon still out with a week-to-week lower leg injury, guard Madison Greene joined Sheldon on the injury list. Making it worse, Greene’s out for the rest of the season.
That meant Ohio State continued with guard Rikki Harris at the point and early on she delivered. The Wildcats tried to slow the game down but defensively they couldn’t stop fouling the Buckeyes.
Ohio State went on an 11-point run after Northwestern scored one from the free throw line to start the game. The game began with an 11-1 Buckeyes lead and Northwestern tried to toughen up to stop the scoring.
The tough play did help slow down the Buckeyes quick start to the game, but it backfired with more whistles. That meant the home team needed to go to their bench early. Northwestern’s leading scorer, forward Caileigh Walsh, picked up three fouls in the first half, along with forward Paige Mott grabbing two of her own.
With 6:03 left in the first quarter, Ohio State was in the bonus, with Harris benefiting the most hitting 3-for-6 from the free throw line.
Northwestern also helped the Buckeyes by missing their shots. Even after getting open looks against the Scarlet & Gray’s half court defense, the Wildcats shot 25.8% from the field and 2-for-11 from deep in the first half.
The Illinois-side’s starting five scored five points in the first half, with guard Sydney Wood the only Wildcat to play all 20 minutes to start the game.
For the Buckeyes, leading scorers in guard Taylor Mikesell and forward Rebeka Mikulášiková had a slow start, scoring a combined four points, all from Mikesell. Even so, Mikesell grabbed seven rebounds and four steals in the first half. It shows an improved all-around game that goes beyond scoring points.
Picking up the early scoring was a familiar duo in Cotie McMahon and Taylor Thierry. The pair scored 13 and nine points respectively in the first 20 minutes. For Thierry, it was getting into the paint, hitting 4-for-6 under the basket.
For McMahon, her 13 were spread around the court. The freshman attacked the basket and hit the Buckeyes lone three of the half, which took 14:40 into the game before one fell for the visitors.
Ohio State took an 11-point 35-24 lead into the half.
The Buckeyes didn’t take too much time in the second half getting back into scoring. Within two minutes, Ohio State was on another run, scoring seven straight to get the third quarter going.
Of those seven, the first four came from McMahon who hit two layups, trying to put Walsh into more foul trouble after the forward started the second half on the court. Then, Mikulášiková hit her first points of the night, a three-pointer to put NU on the ropes early.
With fouls hurting the home side, Northwestern couldn’t muster a comeback in the third. Walsh scored only five points after averaging 13.4 entering the game. On the other side of the court, Ohio State kept the runs coming.
The Scarlet & Gray added a nine and six point run, hitting 24 points in the quarter and expanding their lead to 21 points with one quarter to go.
What made it even more difficult for the Wildcats was Mikesell and Mikulášiková getting on the scoresheet in the third quarter. The two went 4-for-6 from deep and accounted for 13 of those 24 points.
Northwestern had a tough night, but a bright spot for the future of the program is forward Courtney Shaw. The bench player led the way for the Wildcats, hitting a double-double early into the fourth quarter. Also, Walsh fouled out with 6:10 remaining in the game with only seven points.
Ultimately, Shaw didn't didn’t deter Ohio State. The Buckeyes built up a 25-point lead to start the final quarter that NU couldn’t clear, giving Ohio State their 14th win of the season, beating the Wildcats 81-48.
McMahon Leads Again
Wednesday’s game against Northwestern came a day after McMahon secured her third straight B1G Freshman of the Week award. The forward began her campaign for a fourth straight against the Wildcats.
McMahon scored 24 points on 66.7% shooting, leading Ohio State on the night.
Mikesell at Point
Although she’s not a point guard by nature, in the third quarter Mikesell slid into the role. It’s a necessary decision for head coach Kevin McGuff right now as injuries mount. Mikesell excelled too, scoring 16 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and added 7 steals on defense.
Looking Beyond Greene
With the news of Greene’s injury, Ohio State needs to build up the depth beyond the starting five, and that began Wednesday. Guards Hevynne Bristow and Emma Shumate made earlier appearances than usual against the Wildcats, with the game within five points in the first quarter.
The time away from competitive minutes was apparent for the guards, but it was in a game that the Buckeyes were favored to win. In 11 first half minutes, the two guards scored no points and committed three fouls.
Ohio State will need that depth as the Michigan Wolverines and Indiana Hoosiers come up quickly in the schedule.
The Buckeyes return home on Saturday, with a game that needs little introduction. Ohio State takes on the Michigan Wolverines.
Michigan sits No. 14 in the AP Poll, and a three-game winning streak against the Buckeyes. Like in football, Ohio State looks to stop the streak and continue their strong start to the 2022-23 season and end the calendar year with a victory.
Ohio State plays the game at the Covelli Center, instead of the Schottenstein Center. The smaller venue gives the Buckeyes’ more of a home court advantage than the multi-purpose cavern that is Value City Arena.