Entering Friday night's game between the Ohio State women’s basketball team and the Grand Valley State Lakers, there was a UCLA-sized shadow hanging over the game versus the NCAA Division II side. Before any top-25 matchups could tip, the Buckeyes had to face an undefeated GLIAC side, looking for an upset against a Power Five team.
It was an upset that wasn’t close to coming to fruition. Ohio State took care of the Lakers 73-49, plus game many rest before Monday’s matchup against the Bruins.
Grand Valley started the game as expected considering it was playing against the No. 12 team in the country: With loads of energy. The Lakers went at the Buckeyes and didn’t give the scarlet and gray offense much room to attack inside the paint.
Starting two bigs, the paint was swallowed up the paint and every rebound and shot made by the visitors elicited screams and raucous applause from the half-section of visiting fans in attendance; fans who were louder than the scarlet-clad thousands in the stands.
The Buckeyes were 3-for-9 to start the game but didn’t trail the Lakers leading into the first media timeout of the game. Coming out of the timeout, Ohio State had a different level of energy. Head Coach Kevin McGuff’s side suffocated Grand Valley State. The Lakers committed six turnovers following the timeout and the Buckeyes pushed their lead up to 13 points, with 16 points of their first 24 points coming off turnovers.
Guard Madison Greene continued increasing her minutes too, with a better chance for substantial time against Grand Valley State, after playing 3:39 in a physical game against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Greene scored her first points of the season, from the free-throw line.
Regardless of the over 20-point lead as halftime grew closer, Ohio State kept pressing, making it difficult for the Lakers to even get the ball into their offensive end of the court. A play perfectly representing the pressure came with 1:28 remaining in the second quarter. Moving up the court, Grand Valley attempted a long pass up the floor. Forward Taiyier Parks leaped in the air to steal the pass and got it to forward Taylor Thierry right after the catch, who shot the ball forward to guard Rikki Harris on the break.
On a quieter night in the Schottenstein Center, the crowd — and the Buckeyes — showed some emotion with only six seconds remaining before halftime. Lakers’ guard Macy Bisballe and Greene went for a ball heading out of bounds.
Bisballe collided with Greene, sending the guard to the ground hard. Both players got up unscathed, but it forced a gasp and anger from the crowd. Plus, happening directly in front of the Buckeyes’ bench, forward Rebeka Mikulášiková took offense to the foul, letting the Grand Valley guard know what she thought of the foul.
Ohio State took a 24-point lead into the locker room, with guard Jacy Sheldon the only starter playing at least 15 minutes. Sheldon and Thierry, who played the most of the starting five, were a perfect 5-for-5 from the field and led the Buckeyes with 11 points apiece, in a 43-19 first half.
Getting the second half started for the scarlet and gray was forward Cotie McMahon. After a quiet first half with eight points in 12 minutes, the sophomore started the third quarter with a steal and four points.
The first came off that steal, going to the rim but getting fouled in the act of shooting. McMahon hit one of her two free throws. On the next possession, it was another drive to the basket, this time making the attempt and subsequent free throw. Then, to cap it off, McMahon connected on a strong block underneath the basket.
Grand Valley State responded, scoring seven early points in the quarter, compared to eight in the entire second quarter, but couldn’t stop the Buckeyes’ offense. Ohio State already doubled the Lakers’ points with 4:50 remaining in the third quarter, leading 53-26.
With 2:46 remaining in the third quarter, the Buckeyes’ starting five were all on the bench. Even so, the lead continued to extend, with Ohio State taking a 61-32 lead into the final quarter.
Led by Greene for much of the final quarter, the Buckeyes didn’t let the Lakers even think about a comeback, but a starter did have to return to the game. With 5:00 remaining in the game, Parks picked up her fifth foul of the game in 16 minutes on the court. That meant the return of Mikulášiková, who didn’t look too pleased having to come back in with the game so far out of reach.
The Slovakian’s fourth quarter minutes didn’t last long, with Mikulášiková heading back to the bench two and a half minutes later. Leaving the game with her was Greene in her second game back. Ultimately, there was no question in the result of the night, with Ohio State defeating Grand Valley 73-49.
Outside of an early surge by the Lakers, the Buckeyes didn’t look distracted by Monday’s game against the second-ranked team in the nation. Ohio State continued playing its same blistering defense throughout the game.
In the first half, Grand Valley State already hit 20 turnovers in the game, surpassing its 16.6 turnovers per game average heading into the game.
Greene’s Rehab Continues
A highlight of Sunday’s Buckeyes win was the return of Greene. On Friday, Greene earned herself more minutes, returning from a second knee injury in two years. The guard hit 21 minutes in the game in the point guard position. Scoring six points.
When Greene came in, it was Taylor going to the bench and Sheldon sliding over to the shooting guard role. With Coach McGuff increasing the guard’s minutes, it’ll be interesting to watch what capacity she enters and how it affects the Buckeyes’ lineup. Also, with Monday’s game looming, does Greene still fit into the game plan off the bench?
There are big games and then there are season-defining games. Monday is the latter when the No. 2 UCLA Bruins come to Columbus. The Buckeyes are 5-3 all-time against the soon-to-be Big Ten team, but the squads haven’t faced each in 19 years. Both teams are vastly different, and the Bruins come in with a dangerous lineup.
The game tips at 6:30 p.m. ET at the Schottenstein Center. Ohio State looks to improve against future Big Ten teams, after losing the season opener against the USC Trojans on Nov. 6.