From now through the end of the Big Ten Tournament, the Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball team has its eyes on conference play. It began Wednesday against the Northwestern Wildcats in a convincing 81-48 victory in Evanston, Ill.
Here’s more from that win, including injury updates.
Cotie McMahon Kicks Play into Gear
For the sixth game in a row, forward Cotie McMahon scored the first points for the Buckeyes. The freshman represents the energy and intensity that head coach Kevin McGuff hopes Ohio State can play for as close to 40 minutes, and it continued Wednesday.
McMahon led all scorers on the night with 24, and it's the fourth time in the last six games that the Centerville, Ohio native led the Buckeyes in that department. It’s another early chapter in the book McMahon’s writing in her first season in college basketball.
“For me it was kind of a confidence thing too, was more so understanding the game of college basketball and I feel like from now to the beginning of the season I definitely understand basketball a little bit more,” said McMahon. “It’s not about a fast-paced game but taking your time and making the right read.”
Those reads are evident on the court. McMahon began the season with seven total assists in the first seven games of the year. McMahon’s three assists bring her total in the last seven to 24. Defensively, her reads create plays like this one.
McMahon’s 24 points mean the young forward has scored at least 20 points in five games. Not a bad beginning to the story.
Eboni Walker Continues Adjusting to Buckeyes Basketball
Before the Scarlet & Gray faced depth issues at guard, it was the forward position that coach McGuff looked for reinforcement. Forward Rebeka Mikulášiková’s had a great start to the season but the Slovakian’s averaging eight more minutes per game this year than last season.
Last night, a glimpse of that forward depth showed in Eboni Walker. While Walker’s name didn’t jump off the scoresheet, her 19 minutes is the most played in scarlet for a game against a Power Five conference school.
When Walker was on the court, she was making impacts offensively and defensively. With the ball, the Syracuse transfer scored seven points and added two assists. Of those two, one showed the quick reflexes of a player whose importance will grow as the season continues.
Defensively, Walker was everywhere. The forward grabbed three rebounds defensively but in the transition game, her two steals set Ohio State up for a big second half that put the Wildcats far back in the rearview mirror.
The overall energy of Walker was infectious, hitting +16 in the +/-, the highest of any non-starter on the Buckeyes’ roster. It was a night McGuff’s looked for from the forward, and it was rewarded.
⛓️ 14 games, 14 Dub Chains ⛓️ pic.twitter.com/DgayjYYaJ5— Ohio State WBB (@OhioStateWBB) December 29, 2022
Taylor Thierry Work Paying Off
It wouldn’t be game notes without mention of forward/guard Taylor Thierry. The Cleveland, Ohio sophomore once again hit double-digits in points and was two rebounds away from her first collegiate double-double.
Thierry spent the game in the paint, cleaning up rebounds and loose balls, and continued playing Ohio State’s most consistent basketball of the season. With scorers like guard Taylor Mikesell and McMahon, the thought of Thierry being the foundation of the team seems odd but it’s no surprise to coach McGuff.
“She’s one of the most disciplined players in our program,” said McGuff. “From day one practice, a year ago, every day she shows up and tries to do it the right way. Her progress has really been fun to watch, she’s earned it.”
Growing confidence was a goal of Thierry entering her second college season, and the disciplined approach is paying off. Even during the holiday time away.
“When we were off, I was getting in the gym, getting a lot of shots up,” said Thierry. “Getting a lot of reps in and you know that helped get my confidence up. Hopeful that that continues and builds more throughout the season.”
Thierry has the potential to become a double-double machine for Ohio State, but right now her 82 rebounds lead the team and without more presence in the paint it’s hard to rebound against two or three opponents. Some of Thierry’s rebounds last night were in that crowd, showing that regardless of being outnumbered, the forward sticks with the play through the attention.
Watch Thierry throughout the season, because the growth doesn’t seem to be close to hitting her ceiling.
Rikki Harris and Taylor Mikesell Run Point
With guards Madison Greene and Jacy Sheldon out with injury, guard Rikki Harris took up the point guard spot. Like her eight-assist performance against the Oregon Ducks, Harris led the Scarlet & Gray in facilitation. Harris had six assists and found her teammates in good positions to score.
Also, shooting guard Mikesell played the point at times, especially in the third quarter when Harris was on the bench getting rest. Mikesell had three assists but her guard work shined the most in the press. The guard had seven assists in a Sheldon-esque defensive performance forcing turnovers.
Both put in solid performances, but it's not always going to go this well, warns McGuff.
“With both Madison and Jacy out, it’s going to be choppy at times,” said McGuff.
Saturday is another test for the duo, against the Michigan Wolverines.
A shadow over the entire game was the announcement of Greene’s status as out for the season, due to a knee injury.
“It’s a huge loss. She’s a great player, a great point guard, a great leader,” said McGuff. “She’s our best perimeter defender as well. I hate it for her mostly because she works so incredibly hard to get back.”
Coach McGuff added how much he hates it for her, but said Greene’s in good spirits and helping the team however she can. Greene did Wednesday, sitting on the bench and motivating teammates. In terms of Sheldon, she’ll be back this season, but the question is when?
The answer isn’t as clear, and that’s by design. Ohio State isn’t looking for a short-term fix, but a healthy Sheldon is the long-term plan.
“She’s coming,” said McGuff on progress. “We’re really making sure that we give her ample time to make sure that we get it right and when she comes back there’s no setbacks.”