Monday night was difficult for the Ohio State women’s basketball team. The Buckeyes fell to the UCLA Bruins 77-71, after nearly coming back from a 22-point deficit to start the fourth quarter. Friday, it was another game against the Bruins, except this time it was the Belmont Bruins of the Missouri Valley Conference.
In a game that was highlighted with Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff coaching against his daughter, guard Kilyn McGuff, the dad’s side pulled out the victory. Ohio State enters the holiday break with a win over Belmont 84-55.
Ohio State looked motivated from the jump. Guards Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Thierry continued their runs from Monday where the two combined for 50 total points. Following a Sheldon layup, Thierry grabbed a steal on the following inbound pass by Belmont and hit a layup right under the rim.
The Buckeyes started with a six-point run, but once the Bruins began scoring, it became a much closer contest. Starting things off for Belmont was forward Kendal Cheesman. Although the forward averaged 11 points per game entering, she has the ability to have big scoring games, especially from deep.
Cheesman started with a three-point shot, then a layup on the next offensive drive. Thanks to a bad pass for the Buckeyes on its next offensive possession, Belmont’s McGuff went on the fast break, getting the visitors within one point.
Belmont’s adjustment to the game continued, and the Bruins secured a first-quarter lead, albeit a fleeting one. In a two-minute stretch, Belmont outscored the Buckeyes 8-2, earning a one-point lead by passing and cutting through Ohio State’s half-court defense.
Guard Celeste Taylor and the Buckeyes had adjustments of their own and found a groove to end the quarter. Ohio State ended the first 10 minutes of the game on a seven-point run, starting with a key turnover on the defensive end of the court.
Taylor intercepted a pass, sending the ball towards out of bounds, with sophomore forward Cotie McMahon saving the possession. Forward Eboni Walker got the run started, hitting a midrange shot a couple of feet within the corner of the arc. Taylor hit an impressive layup next, moving around the Belmont defense. Sheldon ended the quarter, hitting a three-point shot right before the first-quarter buzzer. It was the ninth point for Sheldon in the game, leading the Buckeyes.
The six-point Ohio State lead didn’t last long into the second quarter. That’s because Belmont had a seven-point run of its own, erasing the strong end of the quarter for the Buckeyes. It took almost four minutes for the scarlet and gray to hit a shot from the floor. Until then, three free throws for Ohio State kept the deficit manageable.
Halfway into the second quarter, the Buckeyes were 1-for-6 from the floor, so it wasn’t scoring getting Ohio State back into the lead. It was defense. Belmont missed six shots in a row, thanks in part to good assignments and a couple of poor attempts by the Bruins.
Before the media timeout, Taylor added another key defensive moment in the Buckeyes’ first half. Going up against the taller forward, Tessa Miller, Taylor was backed in near the post. Miller turned to go for the layup attempt and Taylor timed her jump perfectly, blocking the attempt to hold the Ohio State lead.
Belmont helped Ohio State, hitting only two shots in the second half of the quarter. Ohio State hit only four, but the final three were from beyond the arc, by three different Buckeyes. Taylor and Sheldon hit the first two, but the third got people out of their seats.
With six seconds remaining, Sheldon missed a three attempt of her own and Belmont grabbed the ball and seemed caught off guard. The Bruins gave the ball away to Buckeyes’ guard Rikki Harris. The redshirt senior took a few steps and launched a three-point shot as time expired. It gave Ohio State a 10-point lead going into halftime, 38-28.
The cold shooting stymied the Bruins into the second half. Belmont hit only one shot in its first eight attempts of the quarter, as the Ohio State lead grew. While there was never one long sustained Buckeyes run of the quarter, Ohio State hit four-straight three-point shots on a run of seven-straight makes.
It was part of a larger 11-for-12 run that put the Buckeyes up 20 points at the end of the third quarter. In the quarter, six different Ohio State players had points, including four third quarter points by forward Eboni Walker. The starting forward for the Buckeyes in their postseason run last season hasn’t featured much this season, but hit a season high in minutes, scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds.
In the fourth quarter, Belmont tried to get back into the game with shots from deep. However, its first four chances were missed in a 1-for-6 scoring drought to start the final quarter. Compare that to 4-for-5 shooting for the home side. That swing put Ohio State up 27 points, with hope dwindling quickly for McGuff’s Bruins. Coach McGuff’s daughter scored four points on 2-for-10 shooting, but grabbed six rebounds in the defeat.
Buckeyes guards were the story on the day. Sheldon and Taylor had 31 and 15 points respectively as Ohio State gets the 84-55 win over Belmont University.
Jacy Sheldon’s Run Continues
Ohio State started the season with a few different Buckeyes taking the scoring lead. However, it’s been all Sheldon over the past few games. Friday, Sheldon led the scarlet and gray in scoring for a fourth straight game. Her 31 points gave the guard her seventh 30-point game in her career. Of those seven, three of them are in the 23-24 season.
While Sheldon isn’t quite at the level she was two seasons ago, when the guard led Ohio State with 19.7 points per game, Sheldon’s hitting her stride at the right time, with Big Ten play approaching.
Celeste Taylor Does it All
Key for the Buckeyes on Friday was Taylor, and honestly key for the Buckeyes in most games over the month of December.
Taylor had her fourth game in double-digit scoring in scarlet and gray. It was also her best game from deep as a Buckeye, hitting three. A great offensive showing for a player who’s excelled defensively. Taylor did that too.
The reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year forced turnovers through forcing jump balls, getting a highlight reel block and more traditional steals.
The Buckeyes are off for eight days following Friday’s game against the Bruins. Ohio State returns to start the remaining slate of conference matchups, starting up north in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Saturday, Dec. 30 at noon et, the rivalry between the Buckeyes and Wolverines renews. So far this season, Michigan is 10-3 after dropping to a pair of SEC teams in the Ole Miss Rebels and Florida Gators. The third came against the Toledo Rockets, who held the maize and blue to a season-low 46 points, in Toledo.
So, who knows which Michigan team will show up to end the 2023 year.
Then, on Jan. 5, it’s 16-straight Big Ten games to close out the 2023-24 regular season.