Entering the semifinals of the B1G Tournament, the Ohio State Buckeyes had a tough game ahead. Of course, any opponent in a tournament semifinal brings a high level of difficulty, but there were other things working the Buckeyes had to overcome. The B1G Co-Champions were facing an Indiana Hoosiers team that beat them 86-66 on Dec. 12. Also, it was a “neutral site” game, which is debatable when a team is playing the Hoosiers in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Also, the Buckeyes had a lot on the line Saturday. Not only would a victory put the Scarlet & Gray in the B1G Tournament Final, it would put the Buckeyes into a position where they could overcome the Hoosiers as an NCAA No. 4 seed. That brings with it home court advantage to start the NCAA Tournament, which tips on March 16.
Ohio State fell short of a championship tournament run to match their regular season. A game where self-inflicted mistakes hurt the Buckeyes, Indiana withstood a late run for a 70-62 victory.
From the tip, Ohio State and Indiana were firing. The Hoosiers won possession and started a streak of scoring for both teams. Until the first timeout at the 4:09 mark, the Buckeyes hit 60% of their shots with Indiana making 54.5%. It was the type of shots Indiana was making that hurt the Buckeyes. The Hoosiers hit their first three attempts from deep and went up early.
Defensively, Ohio State had trouble keeping up with a Hoosiers side that moved quickly through the Buckeyes’ press. Although the Buckeyes held star Indiana forward Mackenzie Holmes to no points on 0-for-2 shooting in the first quarter, Indiana made half their shots as a unit.
Offensively, Ohio State hit five of their first six, but went cold, making only two of their last 10 on the quarter. In the second quarter, the Buckeye’s struggles on offense continued, with shot selection a big part of the problem.
Forward Rebeka Mikulasikova started the Buckeyes with a layup to start the quarter, but then became the primary shooter from three. Mikulasikova is a three-point shooter, but it showed the Buckeyes were rushing shots instead of finding other outlets on the court. It was a shot the Hoosiers were ok with giving to Ohio State.
With the Buckeyes down eight in the second quarter, guard Jacy Sheldon fought to get Ohio State back into the game. Sheldon hit two layups, a free throw and disrupted the Hoosiers’ passing, cutting Indiana’s lead to three.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, they couldn’t get their press to their usual effective levels of disrupting opponents. After averaging 18.8 forced turnovers a game, the Hoosiers gave the ball away only five times in the first half.
Indiana’s guards hurt the Buckeyes on offense. Ali Patberg and Chloe Moore-McNeil scored 24 of the Hoosiers 38 first half points, taking away from a strong defensive half against Holmes, who scored just four. Ohio State entered the locker room down 38-30 at the break.
Entering the second half, Ohio State needed something to make up their deficit. Shooting-wise, they found their stride, hitting 66.7% from the floor, but hurt themselves elsewhere on the court.
The Buckeyes committed four fouls and had four turnovers. That gave the Hoosiers seven extra points from the free throw line, where Ohio State had an otherwise strong defensive third quarter.
Ohio State did show some fight, as forward Tanaya Beacham added a block that turned into a fast break to fellow senior Braxtin Miller. It was part of a five-point run that included a Mikesell three. Then, that awareness and energy brought by Beacham had to take a backseat, as a fourth foul put her on the bench.
In the fourth, the Buckeyes had moments where they saw a return to the form that put themselves in this position. Freshman Taylor Thierry returned after sitting in the first half with early foul trouble and added a block. Sheldon added a block of her own, but when the defense picked up, the offense dipped.
Head coach Kevin McGuff’s Buckeyes shot 2-for-7 to start the final quarter, leading to a timeout and a last chance to adjust their course with a tournament exit looming. Ohio State used the timeout like they’d used timeouts all season — as a way to come back to the court with energy and a more established press.
It worked again, with Indiana turning the ball over four times after not having a single turnover in the third quarter. For all the positives, the Ohio State offense starting struggling to break through the Hoosiers defense, but the Buckeye defense shrunk an Indiana lead to six with less than a minute to go.
Thierry got the final minute started, forcing a jump ball with possession in favor of Ohio State. From the inbound play, Mikesell received the ball in a difficult position and heaved up a three. The shot hit the bottom of the rim and hit off Mikulasikova, giving Indiana the ball with 25.3 seconds remaining, still with the six point lead. The Hoosiers would ice the game with a pair of free throws, and that spelled the end for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State’s late run fell short, and Indiana moves into the championship game with a 70-62 victory
Indiana’s not a top ranked team in the country for nothing. On defense, the Hoosiers half court game stifled Mikesell and Sheldon’s usual shooting. Both of the guards had trouble finding space to take open shots, but it doesn't look like an isolated case of Indiana’s defense being at a higher level.
The end of the season saw a Buckeyes team that normally averages 80 points per game struggle to find their shooting form. Opponents weren’t giving Mikesell wide open three-point shots like the Ohio State non-conference schedule, and other B1G teams gave them at the beginning of the 21-22 campaign.
If Ohio State looks to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, other players on the court will need to step up. That gives Mikesell and Sheldon more space, and makes opponents’ defensive planning more difficult.
With the loss to Indiana, the Ohio State Buckeyes wait to see where they’ll land in NCAA Tournament seeding. The Buckeyes will learn their opponent with the rest of the world on March 13 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.