The Ohio State women's basketball team was back on the court Wednesday, with a trip up north to Madison, Wisconsin, taking on the Wisconsin Badgers. Although it was a matchup from opposite sides of the Big Ten standings, the Buckeyes entered the game on the ropes with three-straight losses.
Head coach Kevin McGuff and the Buckeyes didn’t let that stretch get to four games. Ohio State got the win against the Badgers 90-67 on their first of two road games for the Scarlet & Gray this week.
In the first quarter, it didn’t look like the Buckeyes were going to let another game slip through their hands. After a slow first 10 minutes against the Purdue Boilermakers, Ohio State was taking aggression out on the 7-15 Badgers.
Guard Taylor Mikesell was the catalyst, in terms of hitting shots. The guard, who entered the game 14 points away from scoring 1,000 points as a Buckeye, hit her first two three-point attempts and chipped that 14 down to six with eight first-quarter points.
After only hitting 14 three-pointers in the last there games, Ohio State hit four between Mikesell and forward Rebeka Mikulášiková and Guard Emma Shumate. When shots didn’t fall, guard/forward hybrid Taylor Thierry was there to get the ball back for the Buckeyes.
Thierry had four rebounds to start the game, and all of them were on the offensive side of the court. The Cleveland, Ohio native was active all over the court. Thierry added two steals and seven points to help put the Buckeyes up 29-14 after 10 minutes.
In the second quarter though, the Badgers adjusted their plan of attack, opting to take the ball into the paint. Wisconsin’s newfound aggression turned into fouls against the Buckeyes. With only 2:18 off the clock into the second quarter, Ohio State had four whistles go against them, after only having two the entire first quarter.
Half of those came from Mikulášiková, leading to more minutes from substitute forward Eboni Walker, who already picked up good minutes in the first quarter with four points and two rebounds.
There were 12 fouls called in the second quarter, and five for the Buckeyes, but for all the extra shot attempts, Ohio State had trouble capitalizing. Thierry, the only member of the Scarlet & Gray to make it to the free throw line in the second quarter, went 5-for-8 from the line and 6-for-10 overall in the first half.
Instead, it was Wisconsin cutting into the deficit. Although it never went lower than 10 points in that second quarter, the signs of life were there. Forward Serah Williams and guard Avery LaBarbera were the catalysts.
Williams controlled the paint, going 3-for-4 from the field with eight points. Her success was indicative of a Scarlet and Gray defense that struggled in the post. Wisconsin did well to get the ball through the Buckeyes’ press and when they did, it usually ended with one of the visitors chasing the last player into the paint before they hit a layup.
The Badgers had easy baskets but couldn’t capitalize, going 44.4% from the field in the second quarter. LaBarbera was perfect from deep though, leading all Badgers with 12 first-half points.
Offensively, the Buckeyes underperformed the Badgers in the second quarter, going 41.7% from the field and hitting only one three-point shot on six attempts. That one made from beyond the arc was a good one though.
With 46 seconds remaining in the half. Mikesell found guard Hevynne Bristow running into the post. Bristow received the pass, made a defender fall over and instead of going for the layup, she passed the ball back to a wide-open Mikesell who drained her third three of the night.
Ohio State went into the half up 45-34, but the double-digit lead wouldn’t last.
Starting at the end of the second quarter, Wisconsin went on an eight-point run against the Buckeyes. Early in the second half, Mikulášiková and Thierry received their third and second fouls, respectively, and the home side cut Ohio State’s lead down to six points, requiring a timeout from coach McGuff only 1:18 into the third quarter.
The Buckeyes needed less than four minutes to get Wisconsin in the bonus and hit their shots, putting the visitors up by a single point. Wisconsin scored 15 of the first 20 points in the third quarter. Badgers forward Williams had seven of those points, and Wisconsin went 2-for-2 on their three-point attempts.
However, Ohio State took the momentum away from Wisconsin, and it wasn’t from the press. It was the underclassmen Cotie McMahon and Thierry taking the game into their hands.
With four minutes remaining in the third quarter, the two combined for all 13 of the Buckeyes’ points, ending the quarter with 19 of 25 Ohio State points. They accomplished this with a change of game plan from taking the deep shot to getting into the paint themselves, scoring all the points from either a layup or the free throw line.
Both teams got into the bonus with less than four minutes left in the quarter, with 16 fouls called in the third quarter. Ohio State began hitting their free throws with regularity, going 8-for-10 in the third. Those plus five points by Mikesell helped get the Buckeyes back up to a 13-point lead with 10 minutes remaining.
In the fourth quarter, the fight from the Badgers was dismantled by Ohio State. The Buckeyes shut down any chance of a comeback story for Wisconsin and picked up their 20th win of the season, defeating the Badgers 90-67.
Another Mikesell Milestone
At the end of the third quarter, Mikesell hit another individual accomplishment, scoring her 1,000th point as a member of the Scarlet & Gray.
The milestone is impressive considering the Northeast Ohio guard only joined the Buckeyes at the start of last season.
The Buckeyes’ success of winning a regular season title last year and going to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament is because of the skill that Mikesell brought back to her home state after a year with the Oregon Ducks.
After hitting 2,000 points for her NCAA career against the Hoosiers on Jan. 26, Mikesell only needed 14 points against the Badgers. Mikesell scored 21 points on the way to the Buckeyes’ 20th win of the season.
Poor Officiating Night
Neither coach was happy with the fouls called in Wednesday’s game.
After four combined fouls in the first quarter, the referees called 12 fouls in the second quarter. Most of those went against the Badgers, receiving seven. While some fouls were legitimate, others came on scuffles for the ball between two players. Plays normally where the officiating crew allows the players to play through it.
At another point, guard Rikki Harris was elbowed in the face at half-court, and a foul was called against the Buckeyes' starting point guard. On three occasions in the first half, the crew needed to come together to discuss things for reasons unknown, with an inbound pass changing from Wisconsin to Ohio State without any noticeable reason why.
It would be nice to say that this was the lone off-night for Big Ten refereeing, but that would be a lie. The Buckeyes ended the evening with 21 fouls, four more than their average on the season.
Youth Leading the Buckeyes
Wednesday gave another glimpse into the future years of Ohio State women’s basketball. Thierry and McMahon showed that in the next few seasons the Buckeyes will have a post presence to be reckoned with.
The two forwards led Ohio State when the Buckeyes needed them the most in the third quarter. Thierry controlled the Badgers all game too, leading all players with 25 points and seven rebounds. Of those seven rebounds, five came on the offensive side of the ball.
For McMahon, she continued her finesse plays into the paint, causing problems for the Wisconsin defense like she did against Iowa and Indiana. McMahon had 19 points, four rebounds and four assists in the win.
Ohio State is back in a ranked game on Sunday. This time it is the other top-10 team in the conference, the No. 8 Maryland Terrapins. So far this season, the Buckeyes haven’t done well against top-10 teams in-conference, losing to both the Iowa Hawkeyes and Indiana Hoosiers in the span of four days.
If the Buckeyes want to change that narrative, they’ll have to do it against star guard Diamond Miller and the Terrapins.