Sunday, the Big Ten calendar began for the No. 4 Ohio State women’s basketball team. On the schedule was the lone regular season match-up against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. It was a momentous day for Rutgers off the court, celebrating legendary coach C. Vivian Stringer, who led the Knights from 1995-2022.
On the court, Ohio State went ahead big early, but Rutgers fought back to make it interesting. In the end, Buckeyes still pull out the 82-70 win.
Before any of the ceremony began, Ohio State had a storyline of their own develop when news broke that senior guard Jacy Sheldon was not in the starting lineup this afternoon. She was out with a lower leg injury, the same one that kept Sheldon out for the two games leading into her start against No. 18 Louisville Cardinals. In her place was junior guard Madison Greene.
It was Greene who started the scoring for Ohio State too. After a slow few minutes for both sides, Greene hit a layup that was the cornerstone of the Buckeyes first quarter offense. Of the Scarlet & Gray’s 20 first-quarter points, eight came inside the paint. Ohio State adjusted to Rutger’s zone defense and began to throw passes under the basket for higher-percentage looks.
Just over halfway into the first quarter, forward Cotie McMahon grabbed an impressive assist. Attacking the basket herself, McMahon found a wide open Taylor Thierry who easily put in one of her two shots made in the first 10 minutes of today’s game.
On Rutger’s end of the court, they did what they could to slow the game down and limit turnovers. The home side went deep into their shot clock and their roster, playing all eight players in the first quarter alone. While the game slowed, the Buckeyes still forced turnovers, grabbing six in the first quarter.
Ohio State didn’t take their time scoring in the second quarter. Within two minutes, the Buckeyes scored 10, shooting their lead up to 20 points thanks to guard Taylor Mikesell and forward Rebeka Mikulášiková. Both hit two shots apiece, with both shots from Mikesell were from distance.
To the home team’s credit, their game lifted in the second quarter in front of Stringer. Rutgers didn’t let the Ohio State lead increase after the early push. The Scarlet Knights started moving the pace a bit faster, and found quick passes to break out of Ohio State’s full-court pressure.
The Buckeyes’ defense stayed strong, and the defensive play of the quarter came at the hands of McMahon and Greene. Rutgers forced a turnover and they went on a two-player break. McMahon used her court-shortening speed to catch up and force a pass. On that pass, Greene was waiting, stopping guard Abby Streeter from getting a layup off.
Leading the scoring in the second quarter was Mikesell. Of her 19 first half points, 12 came in the second where she put the Buckeyes offense on her back. Mikesell was perfect in her three three-point attempts, going 5-for-6 overall in the quarter. Ohio State entered halftime up 43-28.
At the end of the second quarter, Rutgers guard Kaylene Smikle hit a buzzer-beating three and the Scarlet Knights kept that momentum moving into the second half. Head coach Coquese Washington’s side extended that three into a 14-7 run into the second half of the third quarter, bringing Ohio State's lead down to nine, their first single-digit lead since the first quarter.
Although Rutgers stifled the Buckeyes a bit in the third quarter, Mikesell and Mikulášiková kept Ohio State in the game. The two accounted for all 18 of OSU’s points in the third quarter, with the rest of the team shooting a combined 0-for-7. Mikesell and Mikulášiková split the points down the middle with nine each in the 11:16-minute stretch of game minutes where only the two scored.
Part of that third quarter was a potential injury concern three minutes into the quarter. Thierry went up for a rebound and Smikle was fouled by the Buckeyes forward, going to the ground. Smikle landed on Thierry’s arm, and she didn’t react negatively to Smikle landing on her, but left the court soon after the fall for precautionary reasons. Fortunately for Ohio State, Thierry returned and so did their double-digit lead, entering the final quarter up 61-49.
The Mikulášiková and Mikesell show continued into the fourth, scoring nine of Ohio State’s first 10 points of the quarter.
Maybe it was the the emotions of the day, but Rutgers didn’t look like the team they’ve been entering Sunday. The home side kept up the scoring with the Buckeyes and never allowed Ohio State to put their foot slightly off the gas like they did against the Cardinals.
With 2:22 left in the game, center Kossandra Brown hit her second three of the game. This time, in the fourth quarter, it put Rutgers back within eight points.
Ohio State needed a response, and going into the timeout Greene did that, hitting a layup running through defenders in the lane to put the lead back up over 10 points.
The Buckeyes were able to hold on, and it was with forcing turnovers. After attacking the basket and hitting free throws, Ohio State held on to win, 82-70.
Taylor Mikesell Rises Above
Each game this season, a different Buckeye’s had their chance to make a lasting impact on a game. Mikesell is always in the conversation, and each game seems to create moments that push Ohio State forward. On Sunday, Mikesell didn’t have moments — instead, the whole game was her moment.
Mikesell’s stats were above her season averages, but off the stat sheet her play lifted teammates. Not only was Mikesell scoring and hitting shots from deep but creating space for teammates, increasing the defensive pressure, grabbing the ball away from Rutgers under the basket and leading Ohio State on the court in leadership and scoring.
Mikulášiková Keeps Up with Mikesell
It’s difficult to keep up with Mikesell when she’s firing on all cylinders, but on Sunday Rebeka Mikulášiková did just that.
The forward was hitting her shots within the paint, making moves under the basket to score 31 points, a new career high after scoring 23 against North Alabama a week ago. Even eclipsing Mikesell who scored 30 on the day.
Honoring C. Vivian Stringer
Although she wore a different scarlet than the Buckeyes, legendary NCAA coach Stringer was the focal point before the game Sunday. On a day they named the court after the famous coach, the first black coach to achieve the illustrious 1000-win mark, the three-time coach of the year and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, received an ovation from home fans and Ohio State on Sunday.
It was an ovation for someone worthy of such recognition. Rutgers University honored her with a court design replica using a piece of the actual court before the tip.
In an emotional halftime speech, Stringer began talking but couldn’t find the words, overcome with emotion:
“I think my team always knows that when I’m overwhelmed, I just cry,” said Stringer. “I love you.”
No. 4 Ohio State (8-0) plays two games in the next week, both at home. Up first is the University of New Hampshire in an early 11:00 a.m. ET game on Thursday. After the brief break from conference play, the Buckeyes welcome the Michigan State Spartans on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. ET. Ohio State’s game against MSU will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.