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Three storylines for No. 6 Ohio State women’s basketball vs. No. 11 Missouri State in NCAA Tournament first round

Three things to look out for when the Buckeyes take on the Bears in March Madness.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Ohio State Buckeyes are finally on the doorstep of March Madness. A day after the Buckeyes men’s side won their first-round against Loyola University, the women look for the same result against the Missouri State Bears.

After not appearing in the tournament since 2018, the 2022 B1G Regular Season Co-Championship winning Buckeyes aim for a deep tournament run. At this level though, no matchup is easy. The No. 6 Buckeyes face the No. 11 Bears, and this is what to watch for in the first matchup between these two storied basketball programs.

Buckeyes Three-Point Shooting

On Feb. 14, the Buckeyes beat the University of Illinois 86-67. It was the end of a stretch of games where Ohio State was ranked fourth in the nation in scoring (82.2 points per game) and first in three-point shooting percentage (40%). Leading the way from deep was shooting guard Taylor Mikesell. The Oregon transfer led the nation shooting 49.4% from beyond the arc.

Since then, the Buckeyes cooled down. In their final six games leading up to the NCAA Tournament, including two B1G tournament games, Ohio State averaged 67.6 points per game. Mikesell, who commands the most attention from three, hit 36.1% and 2-for-7 in the semifinal.

With two weeks off, the Buckeyes had the opportunity to regroup. When Mikesell starts hot from the floor, it allows others like guard Jacy Sheldon to find space and attack the basket. That’s key for this Ohio State team against a Missouri side that didn’t allow much from three. Against Florida State, the Missouri State Bears didn’t allow much from deep, only 10 were attempted by the Seminoles, making two.

If Sheldon and forward Rebeka Mikulasikova get room in the paint, they can frustrate a Bears team that committed 23 fouls in their First Four victory over Florida.

A Strong Bench

For a season that’s ended in warranted praise for guards Mikesell and Sheldon, the end of the season featured unsung heroes. They’re on the Buckeyes bench in freshman forward Taylor Thierry and sixth-year graduate senior forward Tanaya Beacham.

At the beginning of the season, Thierry played in time that didn’t impact the outcome of the game. In big wins, or big losses, Thierry came in the final minutes of a half or a game. In January, that changed. Thierry began joining the action in the first quarter, often turning into blocks, steals, and defensive pressure. Towards the end of the regular season, Thierry became one of the first off the bench.

On the other hand, Beacham has been a constant for the Buckeyes all season. As Ohio State’s sixth woman, Beacham comes into the game to switch the Buckeyes' size and strength of Mikulasikova with Beacham’s court awareness and endless energy.

When Beacham and Thierry come onto the court, they change the game. They give Ohio State a different look than starters Mikulasikova and Braxtin Miller. As long as they watch their fouls, they can inject the Scarlet & Gray with energy through turnovers and defensive stops. With Thierry’s youth, the athleticism and superb timing to stop shots goes away once Thierry gets into foul trouble; nervous to tack on another.

Experienced Bears

The Buckeyes field a relatively young team. From top to bottom, Ohio State has only three seniors and only two start. On Saturday, they face a team full of experience.

Missouri started four seniors against Florida State. Throughout the 2021/22 season, Missouri went with a five senior starting lineup. Within that lineup too are players from power five conferences too.

Leading the Bears is Auburn University transfer, forward Abigayle Jackson. The former No. 1 ranked high school player in Arkansas transferred to Missouri in Dec. 2019. After coming off the bench in the 2020/21 season, Jackson broke out in 21/22, averaging 13 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Jackson was named to the First Team All-MVC and MVC All-Defensive Team.

Another player to watch is guard Brice Calip. Calip’s spent her college career with the Bears and is a leader on the court. Calip won’t amaze in the point category, but she’s an all-around player on defense and rebounds. In the 21/22 season, Calip had three triple-doubles on her way to winning the MVC Player of the Year, First Team All-MVC, and MVC All-Defensive Team.

After starting the game 14-1, Florida State fought back. In the fight, Florida got to the line 24 times and ended up building a second-quarter lead. Missouri’s experience caused the team to not panic. After adjusting to the more physical style of play, the Bears went into halftime tied 29-29 and outscored the Seminoles 21-10 in the third quarter. Ohio State needs to hold composure on their end to overcome a team that isn’t fazed easily.