Thursday was the final home game during the 2021-22 regular season for the Ohio State women’s basketball team. Coming into the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions, the Buckeyes were in still in a position to compete for the Big Ten regular season title and top spot in the conference tournament.
The Michigan Wolverines still hold the strongest title hopes, but with just a single win out of their remaining two, the Buckeyes would lock in a double-bye to automatically advance to the quarterfinals in the B1G Women’s Basketball Tournament. Ohio State’s first chance came against the Penn State Nittany Lions they earned that bye without hesitation, beating the Nittany Lions 78 to 55.
Before the festivities could get underway, guard Jacy Sheldon was honored at half court with a commemorative basketball for her 1,000th point as a Buckeye, a free throw in Ohio State’s big win against the Maryland Terrapins on Jan. 20.
From the jump, the Penn State Nittany Lions came out shooting. It started with a five-point run with guard Makenna Marisa getting the visitors started early. Marisa is the offensive leader of the Lions, and second best in the conference behind Iowa star Caitlin Clark, averaging 22.8 points per game coming into Thursday.
Ohio State didn’t let the first quarter get too out of hand and roared back with a 14-point run. The Buckeye’s offense featured even distribution with four players from the home team picking up four points apiece. A moment of nervousness came when senior guard Braxtin Miller landed awkwardly on her right wrist. Miller left the game, but only for three minutes before returning to the court with a bandage on the injured arm... which she soon ripped off.
Undeterred being down 18-13 after the first period, in the second quarter, the Lions went on a run of their own. Starting at the end of the first quarter, Penn State scored 10-straight, tying the game at 20-20 halfway through the second.
Despite the run, PSU’s comeback wasn’t because the Buckeyes didn’t have their chances on offense. Ohio State took shots, but shot selection wasn’t strong. Also, the mini cold-streak that started in the team’s last game for senior guard Taylor Mikesell continued. After hitting only 1-for-7 from deep in Sunday’s win against Wisconsin, Mikesell missed her first three attempts from deep.
Mikesell finally broke the spell with her first three of the night with 2:24 left in the first half. It was the final shot in a Buckeyes 12-point scoring run.
Defensively, the Buckeyes’ press was in full force, causing 10 first half turnovers. Freshman Taylor Thierry, who came in when Miller got hurt, didn’t let the Lions do anything. In the first half, Thierry had three blocks and four rebounds and led the Buckeyes with a +/- of 23 points in the 12 minutes that she was on the court.
Boosting the Buckeyes in the first half was graduate senior Tanaya Beacham. Playing in her final home game after a six-year college basketball career, Beacham led all Buckeyes with 11 points in the first two quarters. On the night, Beacham surpassed her season high of 15 with an 18 point night. Ohio State cruised to a 34-22 halftime lead.
After halftime, Penn State continued to give up turnovers in the third quarter. The Nittany Lions had five in the third quarter, with Marisa leading Penn State in the quarter’s turnover category with three to go along with zero points in the scoring column.
After a lengthy delay between the third and fourth quarters, Ohio State came into the fourth and extended their lead. It began with a seven-point run to start the quarter. Ohio State was relentless and Penn State looked powerless to stop the Buckeyes. The Nittany Lions tallied up 20 turnovers and Ohio State earned a 78 to 55 victory.
For the second game in a row, the Buckeyes played strong defensively. Throughout the 40 minutes, the home team didn’t give up many open looks. Instead, there was always a scarlet and white jersey in front of every Penn State player getting ready to shoot.
In a season where the biggest names on opposing teams have still found ways to break through the Buckeyes’ defense, Marisa was held in check throughout the night. The usual 22.8 points per game scorer was visibly frustrated by Ohio State all evening. Ohio State handed Marisa her lowest scoring total of the season, with 10 points.
A play that summed up the game for Marisa came in the second quarter. The PSU star held possession as the shot clock was running down. With only seconds remaining, not enough time to pass, Thierry went head-to-head with the guard, leapt and blocked her shot, earning the Buckeyes the possession.
Double-Bye Tournament Bound
The Buckeyes’ win gives Ohio State two extra days off heading into the postseason. The B1G Women’s Basketball Tournament features the bottom four teams in the conference playing on the first day of single-elimination games. From there, teams seeded No. 5 through No. 10 take to the court on the second day, with the top four teams finally getting in on the action when the quarterfinals begin.
The victory allowed Ohio State to punch their ticket to their first top-four finish since winning the regular season conference title in 2017-18.
After Thursday night’s victory, the Buckeyes will end the regular season with a trip to East Lansing to face the Michigan State Spartans. In the home end of the matchup, the Scarlet and Gray beat the Spartans 89-83 behind a 33-point night by Sheldon and 25-point game from Mikesell.
The game tips off on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET. and will be broadcast on BTN.