The Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball team truly played a game of two halves on Thursday against the New Hampshire Wildcats. Ohio State struggled in the first quarter, extended their lead a bit in the second but gave New Hampshire momentum entering halftime. What fans saw in the second half of the 92-36 rout was a sight to see.
It was a half for the history books and the first game note.
Thursday, Ohio State entered the halftime locker room up 10 points. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Buckeyes amassed a 56-point lead allowing only seven points on defense to the Wildcats.
“It started with the press,” said head coach Kevin McGuff. “In the first half, we weren’t putting much energy into it. It’s kind of an all-or-nothing thing. We’re either doing it or we’re not.”
Look at the stat sheet and it becomes evident. In the first half, the Wildcats shot 37.5% from the field, and 50% in the second quarter, showing a lull in the Buckeyes’ energy. Ohio State forced nine turnovers in the second half.
Shifting to the third and fourth quarters, the Scarlet & Gray allowed two made shots all half. Two. Both came in the third quarter, with the Wildcats shooting and missing 12 attempts in the fourth quarter. Outside of three shots made at the free throw line in the last 10 minutes of the game, the Wildcats didn’t make a shot in-play for 15:56.
Ohio State forced nine turnovers in the first half and doubled it in the second half, ending the day just below their NCAA-leading average with 27 forced.
The Buckeyes’ seven points allowed in the second half was the fewest allowed in a half this season. Previously, a 20-point second half against the McNeese State Cowgirls topped the list. With the seven-point defensive performance, Ohio State tied their program record when they held Nicholls State to seven points on Nov. 25, 2005, in an eerily similar scoreline of 94-35.
Center and All-American Jessica Davenport led the Buckeyes that day with 18 points. The 2005/06 season is also the first year Ohio State won both the Big Ten regular season and tournament in the same season.
That season also saw the Scarlet & Gray hit a program-high No. 2 ranking to end the season. It’s a record that Ohio State could match if they continue their winning ways and teams ahead of them slip up.
Looking Past a Ranking
Ohio State’s second half also broke a funk that stretches back to the early minutes of the Buckeyes’ first Big Ten game of the season, at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights lost by 12 points but outscored Ohio State in the final three quarters of the game.
Coach McGuff diagnosed the issue after the win over the Wildcats, and how the Buckeyes fixed it.
“We didn’t play hard, we weren’t focused, we didn’t play with intensity,” said McGuff. “I told them at halftime, ‘we look like a team for the last 10 days everyone’s been telling us how good we are, and not like the team that started the year as one of the hardest playing teams in the country.’”
After the game, forwards Cotie McMahon and Taylor Thierry echoed that sentiment. It was a moment that changed the game and reminded the team that they can talk the talk about not letting the ranking affect their game, but they also have to play what they’re saying.
Cotie McMahon’s Big Second Half
Personifying this intensity and energy coming out of the locker room was McMahon. In the first three minutes and six seconds of the third quarter, McMahon had four steals that resulted in 10 points. The freshman forward scored 10 points, on her way to a 20-point game, tying her early NCAA career high.
“That’s our game, that’s my game,” said McMahon. “We should have started like that from the jump.”
McMahon added four assists and four rebounds, plus only one turnover committed. It’s a sign of McMahon’s early growth as a freshman who entered Ohio State with big expectations next to her top-25 recruit in the country title.
Scoring Through the Roster
All but one healthy Buckeye saw time on the court Thursday, and 10 of 11 got their name in the scoring column. What sticks out is forward Rebeka Mikulášiková. The forward scored a season-low seven points, but Ohio State didn’t need a big scoring day from the big. Mikulášiková was valuable on defense, getting hands in the faces of shooters, often from beyond the arc. The forward also grabbed six rebounds, tied for the team-high.
Fellow forward Taylor Thierry was one point shy of her 15-point career high, but those 14 points got Thierry back into double-digit scoring after two games in a row with seven. The sophomore’s playing consistently this season, grabbing six rebounds on Thursday and blocking a shot for the fourth consecutive game.
Guard Taylor Mikesell was a close second for top scorer with 19 points. The guard scored 11 of those points in the first half, keeping Ohio State in the lead against a surging Wildcats side.
Mikesell led from deep, hitting four shots, one of six players who made a three-pointer on the day. Transfer sophomore Emma Shumate hit two herself.
Columbus City Schools Impact
Lining the streets surrounding the Schottenstein Center were a swarm of yellow school buses and a line of kids wrapped around the building. Those attendees created the loudest home advantage of the season as close to 4,000 students from Columbus City Schools made their way into their seats.
The 2nd and 7 Foundation awarded kids who held strong attendance at school to a Thursday basketball game, and their presence was more than felt.
Win #9 with 4000 of our Columbus City Schools friends! pic.twitter.com/KCj7vGtjyU— Ohio State WBB (@OhioStateWBB) December 8, 2022
Every Buckeye shot made or rebound on the defensive boards elicited screams of joy and vigorous shaking of red pom-poms. When the in-arena team put the kids on the scoreboard, their smiles showed a crowd who enjoyed the game.
They weren’t alone.
“It increased our motivation to play hard,” said Thierry. “Yeah, it was loud but honestly it hyped us up and motivated us and benefitted us.”