If the idea of “no losses, just lessons” is true, then the Ohio State women’s basketball team is learning its fair share of lessons. Last week, the Buckeyes dropped three games in a row, and Sunday’s was the toughest one to take for the Scarlet & Gray.
After dropping games to two top-10 ranked teams, the Buckeyes lost to the unranked Purdue Boilermakers 73-65. Here’s what to take away from that game, including comments from head coach Kevin McGuff and guards Taylor Mikesell and Taylor Thierry.
Coach McGuff was straightforward and to the point in the first things he said to the media following Sunday's defeat.
“They came in, they were focused. They were ready and we were not,” said McGuff.
Purdue began the game with a firestorm of three-point shots. The Boilermakers shot 77.8% from deep, hitting 7-for-9. On most of those attempts, the Buckeyes did have hands up to try and stop the shot; which on the surface, looks like good defense, but Ohio State needed to rush on those attempts because they couldn’t disrupt Purdue enough to not find those shooters.
Both Abbey Ellis and Cassidy Hardin went 3-for-3 against the Buckeyes, with a couple of those coming from wide-open looks. It put Ohio State in a 27-13 hole after only the first quarter.
There’s also an argument to be made that the offense didn’t help either. The Buckeyes are 14-for-68 from deep since Monday’s loss to the then No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes. While offensively, Ohio State hasn’t been great, the main culprit on the day was clear to Mikesell.
“A lot of it was our defense,” said Mikesell. “We weren’t really getting out there to contest. You could see in the second half when we came out with energy they weren’t getting as many easy looks so we’ve just got to come out more locked in and more focused on knowing our personnel.”
Ohio State had another comeback in the second half, tying the game at 58 apiece with 4:28 left in the game. Then, the Buckeyes lost focus again, allowing Purdue to outscore them 15 to seven in the final minutes of the game. Part of that was an important exit by Ohio State.
Taylor Thierry’s Departure
The Buckeyes couldn’t afford to lose Thierry on Sunday, but they did. After hitting the game-tying layup, the next offensive possession saw Thierry get her fifth foul, on an offensive charging call.
“I agree with that call but a couple of the other fouls I had, I don’t know if I agree with that too much,” said Thierry. “But I’ve just got to be more careful about that and just be more mindful.”
Without Thierry, the Boilermakers went on a seven-point run that locked in the victory.
Sunday was the third time Thierry has fouled out in a game, with the first two coming against the Tennessee Volunteers and Louisville Cardinals. In both of those games though, the Buckeyes were in the lead and charging ahead of their opponents.
The idea that Thierry is fouling out more supports two things. Thierry said the first, being more mindful of positioning. While there were some tough calls on Sunday, being in better positioning will help the young forward avoid bad calls. The second is how important Thierry is to the team.
On Thursday, in Indiana, Thierry had four fouls early in the second half but McGuff needed to keep playing her. Sunday, the stretch of Purdue scoring that immediately followed Thierry’s departure wasn’t a coincidence.
The last three games have been difficult for Ohio State but what’s pushed the Buckeyes through some games has been their ability to turn on their scoring at pivotal points of the game.
Outside of Thierry and forward Cotie McMahon, it hasn’t been happening. McMahon’s led the team in the past three days scoring 17.6 points. For Mikesell and forward Rebeka Mikulášiková, they’re both averaging under their season totals per game, averaging 12.6 and 7.3 respectively over the past seven days.
Sunday, all three scored 11 points, with Thierry leading all Buckeyes with 18. In the second quarter, Thierry scored nine of Ohio State’s 16 points with the rest of the team going 3-for-11 before halftime.
Q2 | Taylor Thierry with the offensive rebound and put-back gets her into double figures!#GoBucks pic.twitter.com/ZhAKu98S5V— Ohio State WBB (@OhioStateWBB) January 29, 2023
When asked about shot selection or the quality of shots, McGuff has thoughts.
“It’s a little bit of both,” said McGuff. “At times we’re standing a little bit too much in our zone offense and not moving ourselves and the ball. That’s one thing and the other thing is we’re getting opportunities, basically HORSE shots, and we’ve got to step up and make them if we want to win.”
Against Purdue, and in the previous two games, the Buckeyes are in positions to hit their deep attempts and the defense opts to not rush the shooter or even defend. That’s because the deep threat isn’t there for Ohio State outside of Mikesell and Mikulášiková.
Guard Rikki Harris hit two on Sunday, out of nine attempts. For most of those, the defense was fine with the choice to shoot. For Mikesell, the defense is giving her added attention from deep too.
That means the deep threat for Ohio State is mainly getting quick shots from three-point range off screens, sometimes with two defenders standing in front of her. There are no excuses from the Oregon transfer though.
“Just not going in is what it is,” said Mikesell. “Just have to keep shooting.”
There are shreds of light in the darkness of the recent Scarlet & Gray losing streak. Ohio State won the rebounding margin on Sunday, showing better energy and positioning under the basket to get second chances.
Against Purdue, Ohio State had two more than Purdue overall but hit them on the offensive rebounds. The Buckeyes outrebounded 12 to seven on the offensive boards and had 14 second-chance points.
The Buckeyes gave the ball away more than the Boilermakers on Sunday too, something out of character for Ohio State. Purdue only lost the ball 13 times, far below their 22.2 turnover average this season.
That’s because the Buckeyes didn’t press as often with shots being missed, forcing only four in the first half. In the second half though, it improved with nine turnovers by Purdue. That’s also when Ohio State tied the game and had the chance to pull out another comeback victory. Instead, it faltered.
“I think we’ve gotten a little bit away from our identity,” said McGuff.
With less of a press, there are fewer chances to push transition offense into another gear. The slower transition means more half-court basketball, where the Buckeyes struggle. Fortunately for Mikesell and her teammates, it’s January and not March.
“We still have a lot of league play left and you don’t want to be playing your best basketball right now so it's good to take a little bit of adversity,” said Mikesell. “You take it on the chin and get better.”
The other reason Ohio State lost was that there was another team on the court. It wasn’t all Buckeye mistakes but also a Purdue team who’s hitting their stride and playing good basketball in 2023.
“We talked about that as a team like ‘hey this is not a team you can overlook. They’re playing really good basketball right now and if we’re not on point they can come in here and win,’ said McGuff. “And that’s what happened.”
It was a B1G win for @PurdueWBB today. pic.twitter.com/JnPeyN06ch— Purdue On BTN (@PurdueOnBTN) January 29, 2023
Sunday was the second road win in a row for the Boilermakers, after defeating the No. 22 Illinois Fighting Illini on Thursday, when the Buckeyes were in Bloomington, Indiana. Outside of Ellis and Hardin’s 26 and 15 points, guard Jeanae Terry played another quietly impressive game.
Terry scored eight points, and had seven rebounds and eight assists on the day. Continuing her trend as one of only three players in NCAA women’s basketball to average at least six in each category per game.
Outside of the Buckeyes getting things even in the fourth quarter, the Boilermakers played a game that stifled Ohio State. They stopped runs when all season was littered with teams who couldn’t do the same.
Jacy Sheldon Working in the Gym
An important note following the game was an update on guard Jacy Sheldon. The guard missed her 14th game in a row on Sunday, not having played since Nov. 30 against the Louisville Cardinals.
Sheldon’s foot injury is back to day-to-day and coach McGuff shared that Sheldon is now working in the gym. No further details on a return date but McGuff said it’s coming soon. Her return, and staying healthy through the season and beyond, is no longer a “nice to have” but a necessity if the Buckeyes want to continue to compete at a high level.
“Their (Sheldon and Madison Greene) impact was never not felt,” said Mikesell. “They’re hard shoes to fill.”