The Ohio State women’s basketball team returned for its second of five straight home games in the month of December. However, not all games are created equal. Sunday featured the first conference game of the season, welcoming the Penn State Nittany Lions in a top 25 matchup.
Before the game got started, Ohio State had good news. It was the return of guard Madison Greene. After missing the entire 21-22 season with a knee injury, and then suffering another season ending knee injury on Dec. 20, 2022, against the USF Bulls, Greene was removed from the injury report.
In a game that went to overtime, the Buckeyes come back from a 13-point deficit to defeat the Nittany Lions 94-84.
Sunday didn’t begin with a lot of offense, but a lot of whistles. Within the first two minutes, both Ohio State and Penn State each picked up two fouls apiece. The calls forced the Nittany Lions to adjust quickly, sending guard Shay Ciezki to the bench after 39 seconds on the game clock.
It appeared that head coach Carolyn Kieger of Penn State was taking precaution with the sophomore who's second on the team in scoring. Ciezki picked up four fouls on Monday in a loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers, scoring no points in the defeat.
The start of the game was a lot like the first two minutes. Halfway through the quarter, each side’s team fouls shot up to five, and the scoring didn’t necessarily follow suit. On three shots in the paint for the Buckeyes, they were whistled for charging fouls. The third causing the large crowd on hand to start turning against the officials, echoing boos throughout the arena.
Offensively, baskets did start to fall. Of Ohio State’s first five points, four came from the free throw line. For Penn State, early turnovers hurt, not getting a shot off until over three minutes into the game. The Lions tied the game though, getting off two layups and a three from guard Makenna Marisa, but out of the timeout, the Buckeyes looked composed.
Out of the timeout, forward Cotie McMahon intercepted a pass, kept it from going out of bounds and set guard Rikki Harris up for a Hail Mary pass. With the accuracy of a Buckeyes quarterback transfer portal target, Harris found Sheldon under the basket for a layup.
In a game that took four minutes for both teams to score a point, the final six were a track meet. Penn State, down 5-2, ended the first quarter tied 26-26. Getting both teams there was great guard play by Jacy Sheldon and Marisa.
Each scored 10 of their team’s 26 points, with Marisa more successful from deep, not missing any of her two three-point attempts. Sheldon did her work inside the paint, and on four free throws in the whistle-heavy first.
While the officials made the crowd a little antsy, the crowd got on their feet with 3:39 left in the quarter. That’s when Greene got her first minutes in almost a year. She entered a game where both teams were playing blistering full court defense, resulting in no points in Greene’s first shift of the year.
At the start of the second quarter, Penn State gave Ohio State its largest home deficit of the season. The Nittany Lions scored the first seven points of the quarter, two off layups from forward Ali Brigham and an open three-pointer by Drexel transfer Moriah Murray. It forced an early quarter timeout by head coach Kevin McGuff.
It didn’t get much better coming out of it. Guard Celeste Taylor hit a shot from beyond the arc, but so did Marisa and Ciezki. Penn State increased its lead to 12 points, forcing another McGuff timeout within two minutes of its last.
While the extra time to get on the same page helped offensively, defensively the Nittany Lions kept the momentum. After Ohio State scored nine of the next 10 points, Penn State went on an eight-point run. During the run, outside shooting hurt the Buckeyes, going 0-for-5.
Penn State shot 20% higher than Ohio State in the second quarter, with the Buckeyes hitting only 33.3% from the floor. It gave the visiting Big Ten side a 10-point lead going into halftime, up 40-50.
The second half didn’t bring much relief from tough shooting. From the field and the line the Buckeyes kept shooting below their average. Halfway through the third quarter, Ohio State was 2-for-7 in the run of play and 1-for-4 from the free throw. Until that point in the game, the scarlet and gray were 9-for-17 on free shots at the charity stripe.
On the other side of the court, the team from Happy Valley hit 50% of its shots, with Ciezki leading scorers in the quarter with seven points with a quarter and a half remaining.
However, the Nittany Lions’ shooting began to cool, and inversely the Buckeyes began to heat up. Ohio State, aided by Penn State putting them into the bonus due to foul accumulation, went on an eight-point run. Sheldon and McMahon split the points, cutting the deficit to two points with under two minutes left in the third quarter. The run forced a coach Kieger timeout for PSU.
The visitors held on to take a 68-59 lead into the final quarter, giving the Buckeyes an uphill climb if they wanted to keep a perfect home record in 23-24 intact. It would have been 61 points for Ohio State but a layup made by McMahon was ruled after the shot clock following a between-quarter review.
Going into the fourth, coach McGuff’s side started strong. A Sheldon three-point shot and two McMahon layups put the game to within two points for the home side. That made Nittany Lions offensive possessions difficult as the arena grew louder with each stopped shot on defense and made shot on offense.
Then, forward Rebeka Mikulášiková, who was honored pregame for her 1,000th point as a Buckeye, hit a three-point shot that hit the decibels in the Schottenstein Center it to another level. Ohio State had 6:21 remaining and a one-point lead.
The two teams traded baskets following the first Buckeyes lead since the first quarter. Although, four fouls by Taylor had the defensive specialist on the bench in the final minutes. Even so, Ohio State responded with layups by McMahon and an impressive spinning make by Mikulášiková.
Marisa and Penn State took the lead back over with two minutes remaining, on a midrange shot and followup free throw, putting them up one point. Then McMahon, who was 2-for-10 from the line going into the final moments of the game, hit both to put the game back in the Buckeyes’ favor.
Then it was an unlikely source from deep putting the game up four points in Ohio State’s favor. Taylor, who had four three-point shots made all season leading up to Sunday afternoon, hit her second of the game. Penn State had 43.9 seconds to come back and Marisa and guard Taylor Valladay accomplished it, with some help from Ohio State.
First, Marisa hit a midair catch and shoot on an inbound pass following a timeout. Then, Mikulášiková passed but it was intercepted by Penn State forward Chanaya Pinto. Valladay hit the layup, tying the game with 11 seconds remaining.
Ohio State’s Taylor took a shot at the final second, but didn't make the three-pointer, sending the game to overtime. The first overtime for the Buckeyes since Dec. 20, 2022, coincidentally enough the last time Greene played.
Only a free throws went in the first two minutes of the five-minute overtime period. In that time though, Penn State lost two players in Pinto and Valladay, each earning fifth fouls. Making matters worse for the visitors, Marisa also went down but with an injury. In an inappropriately timed scoreboard moment, the score of the Cleveland Browns NFL game came up on the screen. Fans clapped for the 21-7 football lead the same time Marisa was getting helped off the court.
Overtime was all Ohio State, giving the Buckeyes its first conference win of the season 94-84. Sheldon and McMahon led the way with 31 and 27 points respectively. Taylor also had a double-double, scoring 13 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Don’t Call it a Comeback
Last year, the Buckeyes had seven comebacks from being down double-digit points. Sunday was the first of the 23-24 season. Ohio State was down by as many as 13 points against the Nittany Lions, at the start of the second half.
It’s not a trend the scarlet and gray is likely happy to continue, with Ohio State going 7-9 in games when down by at least 10 during the 22-23 season.
The issues for Ohio State were partly self-induced. A season high in missed free throws made it a difficult game for the Buckeyes. Especially considering how many fouls each team committed in the contest.
Fouls leaned heavily in the Buckeyes’ favor, taking 24 more free throws than the Nittany Lions.
Part of the festivities of the first conference game of the year featured the return of many former Buckeyes. At halftime, a group of former players took the court. Included in the group was legend Katie Smith, one of two names in the rafters for the women’s basketball program.
Also, more recent Buckeyes like Taylor Mikesell and Tanaya Beacham who were both part of the 21-22 Big Ten regular season co-championship season.
Up next for the Buckeyes is a Friday night home game against the Grand Valley State University Lakers. No offense to the GLIAC side, but most eyes are looking forward to the game that follows it on Monday.
On Dec. 18, Ohio State welcomes the No. 2 UCLA Bruins to the Schottenstein Center in arguably the biggest non-conference game of the season.
Friday’s game starts at 6:00 p.m. ET and Monday’s begins at 6:30 p.m. ET.