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The emotional return of Madison Greene to Ohio State women’s basketball

Teammates and coach McGuff reflect on the return of a senior Buckeye leader.

Ohio State University athletic department

Sunday’s 94-84 win for the Ohio State women’s basketball team featured an extra five-minute overtime period for the Buckeyes to get the job done. It was the first time the scarlet and gray played an overtime period since last year's San Diego Invitational against the USF Bulls. Like Sunday, head coach Kevin McGuff’s side came away with the win.

That win on Dec. 20, 2022 wasn’t all good. In the fourth quarter, guard Madison Greene, who began starting again after missing the entire 2021-22 season due to a knee injury and subsequent surgery, hit a three-point shot to put the Buckeyes up two points. Within a minute, Greene was on the ground, writhing in pain. Teammates watched Greene lay on the court grabbing at her knee, visibly upset seeing a leader of the team back where she was a year earlier.

Against the Penn State Nittany Lions on Sunday, there were similar emotions.

“It was very emotional, honestly,” said forward Cotie McMahon. “Probably if I wasn’t on the court, I would have shed a tear.”

Except this time it was because Greene was back on the court. Before the game, the Buckeyes elevated Greene’s status from out to available, and with 3:39 remaining in the first quarter, fans erupted hearing Greene’s name announced as the next player in.

Fellow senior Rikki Harris, who came into the program at the same time as Greene, was on the sideline hyping up the crowd. Most of the crowd of 6,000 in attendance were on their feet, with the only explanation for those seated was either being a Penn State fan or not knowing all that the guard’s gone through.

Sunday’s return was from a second injury on the same left knee. In terms of production, Greene played through the end of the first quarter, missing the lone shot she took. However, the return to basketball was about much more than helping Ohio State win.

“Me, her, Rikki (Harris) and Becks (Rebeka Mikulášiková) have been here the longest. Just to see her be able to be back on the court with us is awesome,” said Sheldon, who’s seen her friend, teammate and fellow Central Ohioan go through it all.

“We’ve been watching her throughout the whole time she’s been here. We’ve been with her through recovery, through the injuries. We’re so happy for her. We’re excited for her to continue to get better, continue to get more comfortable out there.”

And Sunday’s game wasn’t exactly the greatest game to come back. It was intense on both sides of the court for the Buckeyes. On the defensive end, the press was in play to try and slow down a Nittany Lions team that’s grown from last year’s 14-17 record. Offensively, Ohio State faced a defensive press that didn’t give the Buckeyes much room to breathe.

“This is kind of a hard game to start, because it’s so chaotic and for your first game that you play, it’s kind of tough,” said McGuff. “But we wanted to get her out there just to kind of get her playing some minutes to get comfortable and we’ll start to certainly increase her minutes as time goes on.”

Before injuries sidelined Greene for most of the past two seasons, the guard was seen as the point guard for the future of the program. As a freshman, Greene started the last 21 games of the Buckeyes’ season — not an easy feat considering freshmen don't often get much playing time at Ohio State.

However, the No. 59 ranked prospect of the 2019 class out of Pickerington, Ohio brought a strong mind for the game early. As a sophomore, Greene averaged a career high 13.4 points and 4.3 assists per game, which was a season record for the guard until last season, when Greene averaged five assists per game filling in for the injured Sheldon.

As Greene’s minutes grow, and production follows suit, it’ll give Ohio State a second starting level point guard on the team. Coach McGuff and the Buckeyes aren’t going to rush the guard back, though. Regardless of what level Greene reaches, her teammates will be there in support.

“I feel like for her it’s more of a mental thing again because she went through the process before,” said McMahon. “So we kind of prayed for her before the game, prayed for her mind to just be clear. She got out there and did what she had to do for the amount of time she was in there, and that was it. It’s really good having her back.”