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No. 3 Ohio State beats Nebraska 76-67

The Buckeyes never had a deficit, bending but never breaking to the Cornhuskers

Ohio State University athletic department

The Ohio State women’s basketball team entered Saturday’s game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers following six days off from conference competition. Head coach Kevin McGuff’s side took that time to improve on weaknesses and rest up for the rest of the Big Ten calendar. Ohio State took what they learned and beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln, Nebraska, beating Nebraska 76-67 and never having a deficit in the process.

Starting at the tip, the Buckeyes looked prepared for the challenge. Guard/forward Taylor Thierry took the jump instead of the usual Rebeka Mikulášiková going up for the first possession. The Buckeyes won the jump and went up 6-0 quickly.

Facilitating on those points was forward Cotie McMahon. The freshman looked up for the challenge of a tough Nebraska home environment. McMahon had two assists on the first three baskets, and had three total in the quarter, plus a block and a lot of intensity.

McMahon’s passing was crisp, finding open teammates as she went to the basket and drew in defenders, then sending it off to a teammate. The forward had no turnovers in the first quarter and only had one moment she’d like to have back. Center Alexis Markowski hit a layup in the paint over McMahon, but that just egged the freshman on.

In the following offensive possession, McMahon took the ball to the rim herself, through the defense, and hit the layup and a free throw after Markowski knocked the player over in the process.

Unfortunately for the Scarlet & Gray, the forward had to go to the bench following a fall on defense. Going up against forward Isabelle Bourne, backing into the Nebraska player, Bourne abandoned the spot in the paint and McMahon fell, turning her ankle in the process.

Even so, Ohio State played a strong quarter. Guard Taylor Mikesell hit two threes, and Mikulášiková added one of her own and the Buckeyes were up 25-12 after 10 minutes.

McMahon didn’t return in the second quarter immediately, after getting checked out on the bench. It didn’t slow down the Buckeyes. Ohio State outscored Nebraska 9-7 through a confident Mikulášiková.

By the halfway point of the second quarter, the Slovakian had nine points and five rebounds. After a few tough outings, where the forward looked frustrated, she was a different player on Saturday. Mikulášiková played like she did to start the season: Making moves in the paint, hitting impressive layups and hitting shots despite the 21/22 Freshman of the Year Markowski being her shadow.

The post belonged to Mikulášiková the entire first half, scoring a then-game high 13 points. However, Nebraska wasn’t totally out of the conversation.

Out of the second quarter media timeout, the Cornhuskers were down 17 points. Nebraska outscored the Buckeyes 13-6 to end the second quarter, led by nine by Markowski. Although the center started the game slowly, Markowski found space and shots in the second quarter.

Everything was working for the Nebraska native. On a Buckeyes defensive possession, it looked destined for a Nebraska shot clock violation. At the final moment, with a player in her face, Markowski took an awkward two-handed shot and it went in as smooth as a wide open look.

That basket cut the Scarlet & Gray’s lead to 10 entering halftime, with Ohio State up 42-32.

The second half is usually good to the Buckeyes, but thats when the Scarlet & Gray are either down or playing a tough first half. Up 10 points, the Buckeyes came out and Nebraska didn’t get that same intensity they had in the first half. The Cornhuskers adjusted to Ohio State and put up a fight of their own.

Nebraska scored the first six points of the second half. The Buckeyes continued to try and let Mikulášiková score in the paint but Nebraska adjusted, double and triple-teaming the big. The Cornhuskers cut Ohio State’s lead to three and forced a timeout by the visitors.

Coach McGuff’s side hit two threes out of the timeout, but Nebraska wasn’t letting them turn into scoring runs. Also, the Buckeyes helped the Cornhuskers with fouls. After not getting to the free throw line once in the first half, Nebraska hit 5-for-6 free shots halfway through the third quarter.

That also put McMahon in foul trouble with three early in the third quarter plus substitute guard Hevynne Bristow earning four on top of three turnovers. It meant Ohio State needed to go further into their bench to try and hold off Big Red.

Ohio State didn’t allow their lead to go down any further in the third quarter, despite Nebraska’s best chances. When the Cornhuskers hit a shot, the Buckeyes responded. Even as McMahon picked up a fourth foul, forcing a trip to the bench, everyone had a moment to push the lead back to double-digits.

Mikulášiková did it by moving back to a shooter role, instead of attacking the paint. The Slovakian went 3-for-4 shooting, plus making her only three attempt, leading Ohio State with nine points in the third quarter.

Guards Rikki Harris and Thierry added layups that quieted the home Nebraska crowd, and even though Mikesell was quiet in the third, missing both shot attempts, the Buckeyes increased their lead back up to 12 points going into the fourth quarter.

Nebraska’s momentum slowed towards the end of the third quarter, but lost it in the fourth. Early in the quarter, Bristow returned to the court and made a game-changing block. With guard Maddie Krull beating the guard, going to the basket, Bristow used her wingspan to stop the shot and then get the ball and turn it into points.

That play put Ohio State up 15 points and the rest of the way was managing the lead. There weren’t big runs to expand it but smaller bouts of scoring that Nebraska couldn’t replicate.

Ohio State returns to Columbus 18-0, defeating the Cornhuskers 76-67

Mikulášiková’s Confidence Returns

After averaging 19.8 points in the first eight games, with every game ending in a Mikulášiková double-digit scoring performance, the forward dropped off a bit. Her points per game average shrunk to 13.8, with only two double-digit games in the subsequent nine games.

In those games, the forward lacked confidence and seemed down on herself for not keeping up that intense play that she didn’t have until this season. On Saturday, the early season Mikulášiková returned.

The forward hit shots in the paint when Nebraska went one-on-one. When Nebraska shifted to a stronger paint presence, she stepped back to make longer distance shots. Mikulášiková led the Buckeyes on the day with 25 points and was the reason the Buckeyes are still undefeated.

Winning Without Turnovers

In all but one game this season, Ohio State’s had the ability to turn teams over at least 20 times per game. Against Nebraska, the Buckeyes won without all the steals and forced turnovers, which is a plus.

Ohio State’s usually plays the math game, knowing that if they had more possessions than the other team, they’d have a good chance to win. Even without the turnovers, the Buckeyes used their half court defense and forced bad shots by Nebraska.

In fact, Nebraska outscored Ohio State in points off turnovers, a rarity for the Buckeyes.

What’s Next

Ohio State returns home for two matches at the Schottenstein Center. The first comes Thursday, against the Northwestern Wildcats for the last game between the two teams in the 22/23 regular season. Ohio State took the first game 81-48.

Then, on Monday, Jan. 23, the first of two ranked match-ups in a week, starting with the No. 12 Iowa Hawkeyes. It’s one of three marquee home games for the Scarlet & Gray remaining this regular season, and a matchup between the two co-champions of last season’s Big Ten regular season title.