In a sea of red pom-poms, held by close to 4,000 Columbus City Schools students, the Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball team celebrated the first day after the end of the semester with a game against the University of New Hampshire Wildcats. In the first of two Buckeye games in Columbus on Thursday, Ohio State took care of business, defeating New Hampshire 92-36.
Absent again for the Buckeyes was guard Jacy Sheldon. Still listed as day-to-day with a lower leg injury, Sheldon sat on the bench, wearing a boot on her right foot. That meant a fourth start for Madison Greene, and second in a row.
The Buckeyes began the game by hitting two early shots, but in a loud Schottenstein Center, the Scarlet & Gray looked a bit disjointed. That gave the University of New Hampshire Wildcats a chance at competing.
Starting with 5-for-14 shooting, Ohio State came out of a media timeout and went down a point. From there, the offense started to click. The Buckeyes responded with a 12-point run, going up 20-9 after hitting a three to start the second quarter.
While the offense continued its improvement in the second quarter, led by Guard Taylor Mikesell hitting nine of her 11 first-half points, the defense for Ohio State lagged behind.
To New Hampshire’s credit, they played well through the Buckeyes’ press. Ohio State only forced nine turnovers entering halftime, with the Wildcats quick passing breaking up the press that isn’t quite the same without Sheldon.
The Wildcats’ shooting also improved. After going just 25% from the floor in the first quarter, New Hampshire doubled it in the second. Leading the way was senior Brooke Kane. The guard scored eight points in the half, keeping the Buckeyes’ lead from growing.
Up 15 under three minutes remaining in the first 20 minutes of the game, the Wildcats showed resiliency. New Hampshire scored seven of the last nine points, including a three at the buzzer by Canton, Ohio guard Breezie Williams. UNH entered the locker room at halftime down 39-29.
All that Wildcats' momentum was crushed at the start of the third quarter. In the first 1:40 of the quarter, the Buckeyes went on a 10-2 run. Leading the charge was forward Cotie McMahon.
The freshman from Dayton had five points in that run, and it showed the press was beginning to click. After hitting a three, McMahon jumped in front of a pass in the backcourt to go on a mini fastbreak. It was her second of the early quarter.
McMahon added a third soon after. This time, sending a deep pass down the court to a charging Mikesell. The guard grabbed the pass under the basket and hit a reverse layup. Halfway through the third, McMahon already amassed eight points and four steals, on her way to tying her season high in scoring with 20 points.
Other Buckeyes joined McMahon in a quarter where Ohio State scored 30 points, extending their lead to 36 points. Mikesell went 2-for-3 from deep, scoring eight points. Forward Taylor Thierry had six points and a block. Even though forward Rebeka Mikulášiková had a quieter shooting day, she added three in the quarter and three rebounds.
It seemed like Ohio State could do no wrong, which followed them into the fourth.
The Buckeyes extended their 15-point run to end the third into a 26-point run before the Wildcats hit a shot. Almost 10 minutes of game time between New Hampshire points.
After a first half that looked like a potential letdown game for Ohio State, their second half was unstoppable. The Buckeyes comfortably beat the Wildcats 92-36.
Buckeyes Find the Energy
For five quarters, stretching back to the second quarter against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Sunday, Ohio State lacked the energy. Head coach Kevin McGuff and the Buckeyes discussed not meeting their expectations in their first Big Ten win but it seemed to follow the Scarlet & Gray back home to Columbus.
Entering halftime on Thursday, the Buckeyes, the No. 3 team in the country, were up only 10 points to the 4-6 New Hampshire Wildcats. That changed in a big way in the third quarter.
Ohio State started hot and their temperature only increased. The Buckeyes scored 30 points, outscoring the Wildcats by 26. That was through separate 10-point and 15-point runs.
Defensively, they forced 12 Wildcat turnovers, after allowing just nine in the first half. Ohio State also didn’t allow easy shots. Anytime UNH had an offensive possession, there was a Buckeye hand in the face of a shooter. It was the lowest point total allowed in any quarter for the Scarlet and Gray so far this season and the 7 overall New Hampshire points are a new half-low this season.
The previous low was 22 against the Ohio University Bobcats.
Staying in the Game
Sitting in the arena on Thursday were nearly 4,000 elementary school students wearing “Stay in the Game” shirts, a program promoting school attendance. The kid’s attendance was felt all game.
The loudest basketball crowds in America couldn’t compete with the high piercing sound of excited Buckeye fans. Every shot made and Ohio State rebound turned into a wave of sound crashing throughout the Schottenstein Center.
Making the game more exciting for the Columbus City Schools students were the Buckeyes players playing Simon Says on the video board, free t-shirts tossed into the crowd, and of course, Brutus Buckeye, who reached deity status in front of the young crowd.
After Thursday’s game, there’s a short turnaround for the Buckeyes. Next on the docket for McGuff and the Scarlet and Gray is their first home conference game of the season, welcoming the Michigan State Spartans on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.
Last season, Ohio State won all three games against the Spartans, including a quarterfinals game in the Big Ten tournament.