Ohio State women’s basketball was having a warmer day than most, playing Monday’s game in the Bahamas at the Baha Mar Pink Flamingo Championship. In the first of two games in three days, the Buckeyes beat the East Carolina Pirates 79-55.
The Buckeyes got things going quickly, benefiting on the defensive side of the ball. Ohio State forced an ECU timeout after 2:32 on the clock because of a strong half court presence.
East Carolina couldn’t find a gap in the scarlet and gray’s defensive setup, going for a bad runner late in the shot clock. On the next defensive possession, forward Rebeka Mikulášiková intercepted a pass. Both moments turned into guard Jacy Sheldon scoring unopposed layups
Out of that timeout, it didn’t get better. Halfway through the first quarter, the Pirates hit its first shot, a three by leading scorer, guard Danae McNeil. By then, the Pirates were down seven, with five turnovers.
In what seems like a repeat story throughout the season, guard/forward Taylor Thierry was a constant for the Buckeyes. Thierry led Ohio State with 7 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 block on 3-for-3 shooting in the first quarter. The Buckeyes had a 10-point lead, 21-11 with the game comfortably in their hands at the end of the first, but ECU battled.
Poor shooting and turnovers hurt the scarlet and gray in the second quarter, with the Pirates taking the momentum. East Carolina outshot Ohio State 66.6% to 33.3% in the first seven minutes. Included was bad passing and foul trouble.
Ohio State had five turnovers in the second quarter, with three bad passes turning into six points off turnovers for the Pirates. Not there to assist was Thierry.
The Buckeyes started the quarter with the Cleveland, Ohio native getting rest on the bench. After coming in, the forward made an early shot but picked up two quick fouls, giving her three for the quarter. Thierry only played two minutes, requiring other Buckeyes to step up.
Head coach Kevin McGuff’s side rebounded and began creating turnovers of its own. With the Buckeyes up only one, looking at potentially its first deficit of the game, substitute forward Taiyier Parks used her in the paint ability to hit a layup. Then, guard Celeste Taylor grabbed a steal that turned into a three-point shot by Sheldon.
Entering the second half, Ohio State had a 38-32 lead and came back out with the full slate of starters, bringing back Thierry with three fouls. The chemistry between them made a difference. Off the inbound, Sheldon received a pass running into the paint, getting the scoring going quickly.
It turned into a 7-2 Buckeyes run to start the second half. Part of those seven points was an impressive, professional-level, move by forward Cotie McMahon. With a crowd in the paint, McMahon didn’t try to use finesse or strength to get a layup in. Instead, McMahon showed her growing game, stopping midway through the run and making a fadeaway midrange shot.
The third quarter looked a lot like the first. Halfway through the third, the Buckeyes outscored the Pirates 11-2. Out of the media timeout, ECU came out fast with a layup but guard Rikki Harris came in and stepped up.
Harris started with a corner three-point shot, negating the Micah Dennis transition shot. Then, on the next offensive drive, Harris hit another three from the other corner, with a body in her face. Harris missed on an earned free throw on the second make, but it got the Buckeyes’ lead to its largest of the game to that point, with a 16-point East Carolina deficit.
With 1:29 remaining, and the Pirates drifting further away on the scoreboard, tensions rose between the sides. After complete passing by the Buckeyes on offense, Thierry caught the final pass and went for a lay-in near the rim. Guard Jade Tillman for ECU went hard into Thierry, sending the forward to the ground.
In walked Celeste Taylor.
As Tillman walked away, Taylor walked towards her teammate on the ground and didn’t walk by, but through, Tillman with a strong shoulder. Taylor followed it up with some words for the East Carolina guard. That sent the referees to the monitor for a long review of the situation and extracurricular activity.
From the review, ECU head coach Kim McNeil was visibly annoyed with the conclusion, saying “of course, of course” to the referees after the group of officials passed down the fouls from the small skirmish. Tillman received an intentional and technical foul for the move on Thierry, sending Tillman out of the game.
Other technicals included Joyner, Taylor and Harris, with Sheldon following them up with two free throw makes. The technical didn’t bother Harris though, hitting another three-pointer on the inbound off the free throws.
In the fourth, the Buckeyes committed early fouls but kept shooting on the offensive end of the court. Sheldon and Mikulášiková each hit one, with the Slovakian forward hitting two. Ohio State increased the lead up to 22, its highest of the game to that point.
The Buckeyes held on to the big lead, winning 79-55.
Senior Guards Show Up
While Taylor had a key moment sticking up for her teammates off the game clock, Harris and Sheldon were providing the same support while the time was running.
From the starting five, Sheldon hit layups consistently despite not logging a steal until the fourth quarter. Instead, the graduate senior was shooting. Sheldon led all Buckeyes in scoring with 20 points. For Harris, the three three-point shots made turned a game that ECU felt they could compete in to a game out of its hands.
Press vs. Press
Going into the game, a similarity between the sides was how the defenses operate. Both teams employ a full court press that isn’t one-on-one coverage but more swarming. The press didn’t work for ECU as it has against previous opponents.
For one, it's now against the Buckeyes and not a mid major side like the Pirates have faced this year. The other reason was how ECU calmed its press down against Ohio State.
In previous games, East Carolina threw two people on whoever received the ball in the backcourt. Instead, the team played more of a 2-1-2 setup where only two players stood in the backcourt, one stayed near half court and two sat back in case the ball got through.
It meant that the turnovers weren’t all there for ECU like in previous games. Ohio State gave up more than 20 turnovers, but it wasn’t because of the press. Had that press been more effective, the Pirates, who were within one point in the second quarter, might’ve made it more of a contest in the second half.
It’s a quick turnaround for the Buckeyes in the Bahamas. On Wednesday, Ohio State takes on the other OSU: Oklahoma State University. The Cowgirls play the Penn State Nittany Lions Monday at 6 p.m. ET.
Oklahoma State made it to the First Round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament, losing to the surprise Miami Hurricanes. Before Monday’s game against Penn State, the Cowgirls are 2-1 with the lone loss coming against the Colorado Buffaloes on Nov. 12.