The Ohio State women’s basketball team is No. 3 in the nation and one of three remaining undefeated teams in the country. If you haven’t jumped headfirst into watching the games this season, we feel sorry for you, and ask the question, “What are you waiting for?” Also, if you’ve been looking at scores alone it looks like the Scarlet & Gray have traveled a fairly easy road, but that’s far from the truth.
Here are the top five performances where Ohio State’s fought back from 10 points or more to win, starting last week.
No. 5: Ohio State at Minnesota (83-71)
On New Year’s Eve, the Buckeyes fought back from an early eight-point deficit against a team despised by Ohio State fans everywhere — the Michigan Wolverines. It was a marquee victory because both teams were ranked, and the Buckeyes were on a three-game losing streak to the Maize & Blue before the win.
With that win in the Scarlet & Gray’s back pocket, their next game brought them to a less challenging, unranked, Minnesota Golden Gophers. Minnesota started four freshmen and a sophomore, against a veteran Ohio State team. With under four minutes in the third quarter left, the Buckeyes were down 10, and couldn’t find their scoring stroke.
The Buckeyes went off. Ohio State began the fourth quarter scoring 14 unanswered points on their way to the win, outscoring Minnesota 28-10 in the final 10 minutes. Minnesota’s young team looked gassed in the final quarter, not able to go up against a well-conditioned visiting side. It led to fouls in which Ohio State picked up eight of those 28 points to end the game.
No. 4: Ohio State vs. Tennessee Volunteers (87-75)
Seeing the first game of the year so low on this list might be a surprise. After all, it’s the historic Tennessee Volunteers women’s basketball program. A legacy only overshadowed by the UConn juggernaut. It was a game versus the then No. 5 Vols that brought the Schottenstein Center to life. This game is fourth for good reason though.
Tennessee looked like the better team for over two quarters. Although center Tamari Key went to the bench early in the first quarter for the Vols, after earning two quick fouls, the Volunteers led Ohio State by six after the first quarter, increasing that lead to 12 with less than three minutes left in the second.
Ohio State cut the lead to eight before halftime and the Taylor Mikesell show took over. The guard scored 15 points in the third quarter, and 20 overall in the second half. Head coach Kevin McGuff’s side demoralized a Vols side that featured key transfers, who looked more like a college all-star team.
The reason this game is lower is because of what happened next. Tennessee lost all of their six games against ranked opponents and lost Key for the season due to blood clots located in her lungs, which thankfully were found before they caused serious injury.
Jordan Horston and Tennessee are still 12-6 on the season, now in SEC play in a conference that’s extremely top-heavy in the standings. They’ll likely make the NCAA Tournament, but their value is down significantly, sitting outside of the AP top 25.
No. 3: Ohio State at Louisville Cardinals (96-77)
It’s weird seeing Louisville on here for much of the same reason as Tennessee. The Cardinals are usually a lock for top-5 in the country and when they were announced as the final ACC/B1G Challenge opponent before the in-season “tournament” is scrapped, it was another game that the Buckeyes were underdogs.
Louisville slip a little before Ohio State came to Louisville, Kentucky on Nov. 30. They dropped down to No. 16 in the polls after losses to South Dakota State and Gonzaga, and a close win against Belmont University. Against the Buckeyes though, Louisville came to play — at least for the first half.
The Cardinals went up 14 points halfway through the second quarter and kept an eight-point lead going into the half. Guard Jacy Sheldon returned for this game, after missing two due to the start of her current lower leg injury, but was playing through injury. Also, four-time B1G Freshman of the Week Cotie McMahon was benched early in the game, with McGuff opting for experience to get back into the game.
Substitute guard Rikki Harris had her flu game that night... well it was actually just a cold, but still. Harris didn’t know if she would play at all, because she couldn’t breathe out of her nose and had trouble running. What Harris did was play 19 minutes with 10 rebounds, six assists, and five points.
In 13 game minutes, Ohio State wiped away the lead and surged to a 21-point lead late into the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes had runs of 14 and 11 points in the fourth quarter, causing a mass early exodus of fans out of the KFC Yum! Center.
Louisville, like Tennessee, eventually left the top 25 after losing to Middle Tennessee State in the next game.
No. 2: Ohio State vs. University of South Florida (88-86/OT)
Now, this game isn’t on here because it's against a big conference opponent or a matchup between ranked teams. This game defies logic.
The Buckeyes traveled to the San Diego Invitational before Christmas weekend. The four-team tournament featured an initial game against USF Bulls, with the winner facing the victor of the Oregon Ducks and Arkansas Razorbacks.
Ohio State had Oregon on their minds, with Mikesell’s former team, and some complicated history, controlling the narrative. The Buckeyes went 18 points down in this game, lost point guard Madison Greene for the season with a knee injury late in the fourth quarter, and allowed the Bulls' 6-foot-4 Cameroonian forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu to control the game.
Mendjiadeu had 34 points and 17 rebounds, with 11 points coming from the free-throw line. With one minute left in overtime, ESPN win probability metrics gave Ohio State a 1.3% chance of winning, down 86-80, and you already know what happened.
Substitute forward Eboni Walker hit a jump shot in the paint. McMahon hit one of two free throws to bring it to three, and guard/forward combo Taylor Thierry grabbed an offensive rebound on the second free throw attempted. Mikesell hits a three-point shot within a few seconds to tie the game with 15 seconds remaining.
Then, Walker comes up big for a second time in the overtime, blocking a shot by guard Elena Tsineke, with McMahon and Thierry going on the break. It was an unbelievable ending, but not unbelievable enough to be number one on the list.
No. 1: Ohio State vs. Illinois (87-81)
It isn’t recency bias getting this game number one on the list. This result had it all. The Illinois Fighting Illini shocked the Big Ten this season, beating a ranked Iowa Hawkeyes and entering Columbus with a 14-2 record, after winning seven total games last season.
Forward Kendall Bostic and guard Genesis Bryant were as dangerous on the court as the hype surrounding their performances of late. Bostic was unstoppable for the Illini, scoring a career-high 27 points and adding 15 rebounds, an eerily familiar trend to number two on this list.
Bryant hit 15 points in the first half after the NC State transfer was named B1G Player of the Week two weeks in a row. Illinois’ shots were falling, they were outrebounding Ohio State and the Fighting Illini were in high spirits, and rightfully so.
That momentum stayed with Illinois into the third quarter, where the Buckeyes are known to come out of the halftime locker room on fire. Instead, a 10-point halftime lead swelled to 17 points with 6:56 remaining.
Ohio State responded with a 25-8 run to end the quarter. Freshman McMahon started the comeback with a seven-point run by herself. Mikesell added eight points of her own and the Buckeyes were tied going into the fourth quarter. It took McGuff’s team 4:40 off the game clock to wipe away the deficit.
The Buckeyes never went down again, beating Illinois 87-81.
Now, Ohio State travels to a tough Nebraska Cornhuskers home environment against a team who entered the season with high expectations but are having trouble reaching them. For the Buckeyes, they’re hoping they don’t have to add any more games to this list.