Before the start of the 22/23 season, the Ohio State women’s basketball team featured a roster full of returning veterans, and a lot of questions. So it goes in college basketball, players from multiple positions either finished their NCAA eligibility or transferred to other programs. That left a void to fill, and sophomore Taylor Thierry has filled it and then some.
Last season, the Buckeyes started all upperclassmen in their Big Ten regular season co-championship year. When forwards Braxtin Miller and sixth player Tanaya Beacham each ended their college careers, a starting spot opened, and head coach Kevin McGuff had a decision to make.
In October, Land-Grant Holy Land incorrectly predicted the names of the starting five, thinking that it’d look like last season’s three guards, two forwards set. Thierry was part of that starting five, reluctantly.
After all, the Shaker Heights, Ohio native was the seventh/eighth player on the roster and didn’t make a noticeable impact until the calendar flipped to 2022. Defensively, the freshman was great. Thierry grabbed steals, made game-altering blocks, and provided a needed boost of energy at moments of the game when play fell flat.
This season, Thierry’s still doing that but in a starting role. It’s not only boosts of energy or the occasional block anymore. Thierry’s playing consistently on both ends of the floor.
Thierry’s offense wasn’t part of her freshman season. The Division II First Team recruit from Northeast Ohio possesses the ability to get to the basket, and leaping ability to reach heights players taller than her still can’t reach but seemed to keep them under wraps last year.
The forward’s quiet demeanor off the court crept onto it as Thierry made the transition to a faster-paced, more physical, NCAA game. That’s gone now.
This season, Thierry averages 12.6 points per game, shooting up from last year’s 2.9 points per game average. Also, the efficiency with which Thierry scores those baskets is unmatched on the Buckeyes’ roster, and almost anywhere else in the entire country.
Across all of Division I NCAA basketball, Thierry is third in the country, scoring baskets at a 68.12% clip. That’s just below fellow Big Ten senior forward/center Mackenzie Holmes who, if not for the Iowa Hawkeyes’ Caitlin Clark, would be a frontrunner for conference player of the year.
“One of the things, and it’s kind of simple, is that she rarely takes a bad shot,” said McGuff. “She doesn’t force anything. She takes what comes to her and what the defensive gives her. Sometimes people get a little anxious out there, but she doesn’t do that.”
Take Saturday’s game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers for example. Thierry went 6-for-6 from the floor, mostly exploiting single coverage to attack the paint. It’s the third time Thierry’s been perfect from the field this season too. Something the freshman Thierry would’ve dished to a teammate.
That improvement’s intentional. Thierry is a coach’s dream. Someone who takes practice as seriously as the games themselves. When asked what she’d like to improve upon for the remainder of the season, it went further than practice.
“Continuing to put in the work outside of practice, shooting a lot,” said Thierry. “Just working on good skills in practice so when it comes game time, I’m ready.”
Thierry’s been ready, and she’s doing it alongside someone playing a similar role to herself: Freshman Cotie McMahon.
Looking at the Scarlet and Gray’s starting five against then No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers to tip off the season, seeing both Thierry and McMahon was a surprise. Ohio State of course won that game and every subsequent contest, and the two have started every game together.
Away from the court, they couldn’t be more different in terms of personalities. Thierry is quieter and McMahon shares what she’s thinking and has an endless supply of confidence. Even so, the two are propelling each other, and building trust.
“It’s always me and TT, no matter what, we’re always behind each other,” said McMahon. “That’s helped motivate each other a lot because we’re both very honest with each other and we both know what we’re capable of doing.”
The two forwards average a combined 24.9 points per game and 10.7 rebounds. Each of the Ohioans has also led a game in scoring for the Buckeyes, a stat that only three Ohio State players could claim in last season’s guard-heavy Taylor Mikesell and Jacy Sheldon scoring offense.
While Thierry isn’t competing with the Mikesells and McMahons of the world to be a leading scorer, Thierry’s role is laying a foundation for the rest of the team.
Thierry leads Ohio State in rebounds, and it isn’t close. Her 119 total rebounds are 23 more than the next player on the team and nobody is touching Thierry’s 52 offensive rebounds. What’s also nice about her rebounding ability is that the forward grabs them whether the Scarlet and Gray are up or down.
Against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, as Ohio State was cutting away at a deficit, Thierry grabbed eight second-half rebounds to keep the ball with the Buckeyes. That sentence works for most of the Buckeyes’ comebacks too, just switch out the team and number of rebounds.
Also, with Sheldon out, recovering from a foot injury, Theirry’s picked up the load to force more turnovers, leading the team with 39 steals. She does it through scrumming with opponents for the ball or using that same jumping on layups to pick passes out of the air like a cornerback in football.
Her game is consistent too.
It’s natural for players to have on and off nights, but no matter what, Thierry is performing in one or multiple areas game in and game out. Which has a lasting impact not only on the game but her teammates.
“It takes a lot of pressure because we know we can always count on her,” said McMahon. “There’s not a game where she’s not scoring then definitely, she’s killing on the boards or if she’s not killing on the boards, she’s doing amazing defensively and offensively. So, we can always count on her so there’s never a doubt with her.”
The scary thing to consider for Ohio State’s opponents is that Thierry is improving by the game and she’s working on becoming another deep shooter for McGuff’s 5-out motion offense. Teams are leaving Thierry open from three-point range, and if those shots start falling, the No. 2 team in the country gets better.
Deep game or not, the Scarlet & Gray isn’t a one-dimensional shooting team anymore and there’s a strong chance that the world hasn’t seen Thierry’s ceiling yet.
“She works incredibly hard in practice and I’m just really happy for her and proud of her for how much progress she’s made,” said McGuff. “She’s a terrific player and really an important part of our team.”