After Thursday’s 80-70 Ohio State Buckeyes victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, freshman forward Taylor Thierry was nervous. It was an emotion that nobody saw in the preceding 26 minutes that Thierry stifled the high-powered Nebraska offense. Thierry’s next task took her away from the court she looked so comfortable controlling. As Thierry was reassured by the Buckeyes support staff, she stepped up to her next challenge: talking to the media.
It was the first time she faced that challenge in her first season of college basketball. After all, at the beginning of the season, even Thierry admits that she wasn’t sure of her place on the team. She joined a front court group that lost two starters to the transfer portal after the 2021 season, and she had to adjust to a new level of competition.
At the start of the Buckeyes’ season, Thierry played mostly forgotten minutes. Time when a quarter was about to end and starters needed a rest, or the game was out of reach for either the opponent or Ohio State. Since the turn of the calendar to 2022, the minutes started to change.
In Ohio State’s marquee victory of the season, beating the Maryland Terrapins on Jan. 20, Thierry came in three minutes into the second quarter. Within 20 seconds, Thierry had a steal, layup and made free throw from the layup. Looking at the stat sheet for the game, Thierry didn’t stand out. Those were her only three points of the game, but it was indicative of what followed.
Since then, Thierry’s played double-digit minutes in five-straight games, and Ohio State has reaped the benefits. Thursday night, Thierry came in near the end of the first quarter when Ohio State was down three. She didn’t leave the court again until halftime, and in the second quarter she was pivotal in turning the game around.
Thierry’s second quarter included blocking a three-point attempt, jumping to grab a steal at midcourt and taking on Nebraska’s bigs on the boards. There’s a mixture of speed, agility and strength that allows Thierry to defend on the perimeter and go head-to-head with centers and forwards in the B1G. Thursday it was freshman standout Alexis Markowski, and in the next few weeks it’ll be Maryland’s Angel Reese and whoever the Buckeyes draw in the B1G Tournament.
“I think you saw tonight what her athleticism can do for us,” said head coach Kevin McGuff. “She made plays tonight that there’s only one person in the gym who could’ve done it, and it was her.”
The other people in the gym know Thierry’s potential too. Joining the freshman in making an impact on Thursday was junior forward Rebeka Mikulasikova, who contributed 15 points and seven rebounds. She’s seen Thierry since the freshman joined Ohio State in the fall.
“She’s a rising superstar in my eyes,” said Mikulasikova after the victory over Nebraska. “She’s really athletic and long. She can play any position. I think she’ll be huge next year and in two years.”
While one big game doesn’t make a career, the talk from everybody after the game was about the future. Offensively, McGuff sees Thierry needing to build confidence. While Thursday did feature the freshman charging to the basket on layups, it’s not as free flowing as her defensive instincts. That will come with more exposure to the highest level of college basketball. Right now, Thierry has a single focus.
“I’m just making sure I’m playing my role really well, whether that’s getting steals, getting blocks, playing really good defense,” said Thierry. “As long as I’m playing my role and getting really good stops on defense, I know we’ll succeed as a team, get our pace going and succeed offensively as a team.”
After answering the first question, Thierry attempted to leave before being called back for additional questions. There are a lot of people wanting to know more about this Division II high school star turned Buckeye.
As Thierry receives more meaningful game minutes and moves closer towards her superstar-in-the-making reputation, there’s an out of view ceiling that Thierry will continue to climb towards. If Thierry continues her vertical ascent, there will be a lot more practice to quell those media nerves too.