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Recapping the season for Ohio State’s women’s basketball seniors

As LGHL jumps into each class, it starts with three outstanding seniors

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

With the 2021-22 NCAA basketball season over, it’s time to reflect on the season for the Ohio State Buckeyes. To do that, Land-Grant Holy Land looks at each class within the Buckeyes — how they played, their on and off court impact, and what’s next.

Up first are three seniors who were key in the Scarlet and Gray’s Sweet Sixteen run. Players are listed by minutes played.

Taylor Mikesell

After three seasons split between the Maryland Terrapins and Oregon Ducks, shooting guard Taylor Mikesell returned to her home state of Ohio. Mikesell previously won the 2018-19 B1G Freshman of the Year and was named to the All B1G Second Team with Maryland. In Mikesell’s lone season out west, she helped lead the Ducks on a Sweet Sixteen run of their own.

Mikesell received eligibility to play the 21-22 season just days before the start of the season. That moment was a tipping point between Ohio State fighting in the middle of the conference and the Buckeyes winning the regular season conference title.

In 32 games, Mikesell started all 32, averaging 34.5 minutes per game. In the Buckeyes’ last four games of the season, stretched across the B1G and NCAA Tournaments, Mikesell never sat on the bench.

Aiding Mikesell’s integration into the lineup was a light non-conference schedule. Ohio State didn’t play any ranked teams until conference play, which let Mikesell continue to grow game chemistry with her new teammates.

Throughout the year, Mikesell punished teams from beyond the arc. Mikesell hit a three in every game of the year, and hit multiple from three in all but three games. Even as teams adjusted their defense to focus on Mikesell, Ohio State’s frantic press of the opposition gave Mikesell room to work.

As the Buckeyes entered tournament play, their lone losses were to a ranked Indiana Hoosiers and Michigan Wolverines. The Scarlet & Gray’s first marquee win came on Jan. 20, against then ranked Maryland Terrapins. In Mikesell’s first game against her former college team, she showed up big, scoring 33 points in the game — her season high — in a 95-89 victory.

The regular season ended on a bit of a drought for the guard. After hitting one three out of 10 attempts on Feb. 20, against Wisconsin, Mikesell shot 7-for-25 from deep to end conference schedule — a far cry from her season average of 48.2%. Mikesell still hit double figures in all those games, causing issues for opposing defenses as she ran into the paint with layups and midrange shots. In Ohio State’s three NCAA tournament games, Mikesell’s threes returned, hitting 60% on 9-for-15 shooting.

Ohio State’s 21-22 B1G Co-Championship with the Iowa Hawkeyes was a welcome surprise after Indiana, Maryland and Michigan each hit speed bumps to end the season. Mikesell received move accolades for her season, averaging 18.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. The B1G named Mikesell to the All B1G First Team. Also, Mikesell was in the top five for the Ann Meyers-Drysdale Award for best shooting guard in the nation, but lost in the final round to UConn’s Christyn Williams.

The good news for the Buckeyes is that Mikesell has used her additional year of college eligibility given to winter sports students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mikesell’s announcement that she would return to Ohio State came March 28, on the day players faced the deadline to enter the 2022 WNBA Draft pool. Another year to grow for a young Buckeyes team and try to beat their 21-22 season.

Braxtin Miller

Playing her final college season was guard Braxtin Miller. The Dayton, Ohio native joined Ohio State prior to the 2019-20 season after transferring from Oklahoma State University.

This season, the Buckeyes entered the year down two starting forwards in Dorka Juhasz, who moved to UConn, and Aaliyah Patty, who transferred to Texas A&M. With their departures, Miller was listed as a guard, but played in the paint and excelled defensively.

Miller played in 31 games, starting all 31. The lone game Miller missed was the Buckeyes’ trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan on Dec. 31 due to COVID-19 protocol. In those games, Miller had a career high 26 steals and second-best seasons in rebounding (143) and blocks (11). Outside of the stat sheet, Miller pressured opposing forwards all year. Miller’s a player that not many opponents could pass. The guard plays fundamentally strong defense, keeping the opponent in front of her and her arms up on shots.

Offensively, Miller wasn’t her strongest, averaging a career low 6.6 points per game, but that’s not what the Buckeyes needed. Head coach Kevin McGuff uses a “5 out” offense, where all five players post up deep and use passing, screens and quick movement from all five players to either charge the paint or take shots.

There was also a toughness that resonated throughout the team, and that started with Miller. In the regular season home finale against Penn State on Feb. 24, Miller landed on her shooting wrist in the first quarter, a wrist that’s already been under the knife in Miller’s college career. After a brief stint receiving treatment, Miller returned to the court, falling on the same wrist multiple times throughout the game. In visible pain, Miller continued and hit her conference season high of six assists.

The guard contributed 91 assists in the system, and still hit double figures in six games, including 12-point performances against the Hoosiers and Texas Longhorns in the B1G and NCAA Tournaments. Miller’s body of work on the court earned the fifth-year guard an All-B1G Honorable Mention.

After the end of the season, Miller opened up on Instagram about her struggles in college with domestic violence and as a victim of abuse. Miller credited her teammates — a group McGuff called the team with the best chemistry that he’s coached — for helping her work through her experiences; Experiences that caused her to change who she was on and off the court.

Miller leaves as a champion, and her leadership on the Buckeyes will be missed.

Tanaya Beacham

The final senior is graduate forward Tanaya Beacham. Like Mikesell and Miller, Beacham started her college basketball career outside of the Buckeyes’ program. This time it was a transfer from the Toledo Rockets of the Mid-American Conference. Beacham joined the Scarlet & Gray before the 20-21 season, playing behind Patty and Juhasz.

In 21-22, Beacham didn’t start any games, but played in 31 as the Buckeyes’ sixth player. Beacham replaced starting forward Rebeka Mikulasikova and was normally the first off the bench. When Beacham hit the court, she brought experience expected from a graduate senior playing in her sixth college season.

Beacham had her best year in scarlet in 21-22, doubling her previous rebound total (173) and had a career high in assists (23). Not only did Beacham bring an almost endless supply of energy, but awareness on the court to grab rebounds in crucial times of the game and score key baskets.

As the Buckeyes saw their chance to earn the season title, it was often Beacham who stood up in big moments. Beacham hit her Buckeye career high of 18 points against the Penn State Nittany Lions in Beacham’s last game at the Schottenstein Center as a member of the Buckeyes. Also, from a bench role, she led the entire team in points with 11 in the first half.

On Feb. 27, against the Michigan State Spartans in the last regular season game of the B1G, the Buckeyes lead shrank, and the Spartans had the momentum at home. It was Beacham who hit a layup, covered by two Spartans, putting Ohio State back in the lead with three minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Against the Longhorns, in a tough 66-63 defeat, it was Beacham who grabbed 10 rebounds and kept Ohio State in the fight until the final whistle.

Beacham brought an unwavering love of the game of basketball to Ohio State. She found her leadership voice in her sixth college season and would probably play a seventh if the NCAA let her. LGHL spoke with Beacham before the end of the season in a feature interview covering her college career, the 21-22 season and more.

Next week, the future seniors are up in a group who will lead the Buckeyes in 22-23.