On the final day of 2022, the Big Ten saved the best for last with a conference match-up that could define the Big Ten early in the season. The No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes welcomed rival No. 14 Michigan Wolverines to a smaller, but rowdier, Covelli Center. Both sides had their chances in the game, but it was the Buckeyes holding on in the fourth quarter and ending a three-game losing streak to Michigan, winning 66-57.
Excitement was high in the 3,700-seat gymnasium, and maybe it was that energy that impacted the Scarlet and Gray early. Michigan came out and went up eight points quickly. Part of that run was on Ohio State shooting 0-for-5 and giving up the ball more than their rivals.
The deficit forced a quick timeout by head coach Kevin McGuff, but the timeout helped. Out of the 30 seconds, guard/forward hybrid Taylor Thierry got Ohio State going. The sophomore attacked the basket and the layup sent the sellout crowd to their feet.
Off the make, the Buckeyes’ defensive press got the home side the ball back right away, this time forward Cotie McMahon getting the make after the turnover. From there though, the quarter was difficult for both sides.
Michigan and Ohio State shot 22.2% and 25% overall, respectively. Then, with 18 seconds left in the first quarter, the Wolverines had ad scare. Forward Emily Kiser, who leads the team in scoring this season, went down after the Buckeyes forced a turnover on the Michigan big. Kiser needed medical attention, and help walking off the court.
The two sides ended the first quarter scoring a combined 19 points and 16 turnovers. Although Ohio State only had six of those swaps in possession, they were down 10-9 with three-quarters remaining.
Michigan wasn’t without Kiser for long. The forward rejoined the game at the 7:05 mark, allowing Wolverine fans to breathe a sigh of relief. But not for long.
A highlight of the first half was the number of fouls. The two teams split the 22 fouls called, and Michigan had eight of theirs in the second quarter. That meant Ohio State went to the line a lot more often, with the Buckeyes going into the bonus with 6:41 left in the quarter.
Ohio State hit 6-of-9 from the free throw line, but what got the Buckeyes fans excited was the work done away from the charity stripe. The Buckeyes overcame their deficit overall, eventually getting ahead of the Wolverines for the first time in the game.
The Scarlet and Gray got there by timely defense and beginning to hit shots from deep. Michigan isn’t a team known to hit shots from behind the arc, making only 79 attempts in 13 games compared to 111 made by Ohio State in 14 games.
With 3:51 remaining in the second quarter, it was point guard Rikki Harris who hit the first one for Ohio State after going 0-for-7 to start the game. That three also put the Buckeyes and Wolverines even at 19 apiece.
That lead wouldn’t last long, with Michigan guard Maddie Nolan hitting the Wolverines’ first three on the visitor’s next possession. Not to be outdone, guard Taylor Mikesell followed that three up with one of her own, three of her seven second-quarter points.
Like Michigan, Ohio State also gave the Wolverines free trips to the line, sending them to the bonus much later in the second quarter. After guard Leigha Brown hit one of two from the line, the Buckeyes earned their first lead of the game, albeit a short one.
Substitute guard Hevynne Bristow, who also had a massive block earlier in the quarter, hit a layup that put Ohio State up a point. Michigan cut the lead down again but their lead didn’t last much longer.
With the clock winding down before halftime. Mikesell looked to hold the ball for the last shot. Michigan knew what Mikesell wanted to do, but their defense on the Ohio State guard was strong in the first half. Instead, Mikesell and the Buckeyes passed the ball around to transfer Emma Shumate.
Even though the Newark, Ohio native hasn’t had a lot of minutes for Ohio State this season, Shumate got possession, made a move like she was headed to the basket, and then cut to her left and hit a step-back three to put the Scarlet and Gray up 30-27 entering the locker room.
To start the second half, the same foul trend hurt the Wolverines. It began with Harris going to the rim with authority, hitting the layup and a bonus shot from the line. It was the beginning of a quarter that ended up being mostly Buckeyes.
Ohio State outscored the visitors 20 to 14 in the third, holding the Wolverines to 4-for-11 shooting, and forcing seven turnovers.
Offensively, it was the two Taylors running things for the Buckeyes. First, it was Mikesell. Mikesell saved an errant pass in the offensive half of the court, and with the play close to blown up, Mikesell decided to take the shot from five feet outside of the three-point line. Mikesell hit the three, sending the Covelli Center into a frenzy. That three put the home team up seven with seven minutes remaining in the quarter.
Thierry was the other Taylor making the third quarter difficult on Ohio State’s rivals. The forward/guard led the Buckeyes in the third with six points and six rebounds, four on the offensive boards.
Coach McGuff’s side went up 16 points on the Wolverines, but the away team fought back. Ohio State committed turnovers late, including two in the final minute of the third quarter. Michigan clawed back to cut the deficit to nine points with 10 minutes left in the game.
Michigan’s momentum continued into the fourth. They did that by exploiting a weak Ohio State presence in the paint. Forwards Kiser and Cameron Williams scored six to start the quarter, with Ohio State forward Rebeka Mikulášiková having trouble stopping their attack.
A 6-to-2 run to start the last quarter forced coach McGuff to use a timeout with 7:44 left, in hopes of regrouping his team for the final stretch of the game.
The final quarter was as even as things could be between the two teams. Michigan trimmed Ohio State’s once 16-point lead down to two at one point, but it’s a 40-minute game for a reason.
Ohio State answered a seven-point run by the visitors with an eight-point run of their own. It was Harris and a surprise in substitute guard Hevynne Bristow who scored a majority of the Buckeyes fourth quarter points.
Ohio State ballooned their lead up with an eight-point run, beating their hated rivals 66-57, with three players fouling out in the game (two for Michigan and one for Ohio State.)
Cotie McMahon Brings Intensity
Ohio State’s dynamic freshman forward isn’t a stranger to having big performances in the last three weeks, but against the Wolverines, she brought another level of energy.
It wasn’t necessarily leading to a better scoring night. Her 12 points aren’t close to her high of 30. Also, it hurt her own game, fouling out with four minutes left in the game, but it was infectious to her teammates.
Multiple times in the game, McMahon hit a layup and responded with an enthusiastic scream or cheeky smile.
In the fourth, moments after McMahon fouled out, Michigan’s Brown fouled out too, prompting a jump up by McMahon with a smile and wave to the Michigan star.
It showed that the rivalry between these two teams is one of the more exciting in the nation, and not just on the football field.
Stopping the Streak
With the win, the Buckeyes snap a three-game losing streak to their rivals. After losing two games last year by 19 points each, revenge was served to the Wolverines thanks to a game where Buckeyes point guards Mikesell and Harris led the way, scoring a combined 30 points.
The Big Ten calendar rolls on as 2022 changes to 2023. Ohio State is back on the road this week, heading to Minnesota with a game against the Golden Gophers on Thursday, Jan. 5 at 8 p.m. ET.
Then, another test comes to Columbus, with the Illinois Fighting Illini and Scarlet and Gray playing Sunday in an afternoon tip. It’s also a return to the Schottenstein Center for the Buckeyes.