The Ohio State women’s basketball team only has four games left in the 2022-23 regular season. In that time, the Buckeyes hope to stay in the top four of the Big Ten. Their fourth place position in the conference is a stark contrast to leading the conference until the week of Jan. 23 when the began a stretch of four losses in five games.
Monday provided the toughest matchup between now and the start of the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament on March 1, a visit by the No. 2 Indiana Hoosiers. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, it was a repeat story to their Jan. 26 trip to Indiana and then some, losing to the Hoosiers 83-59.
Ohio State started the game going toe-to-toe with Indiana. On the Hoosiers first few possessions of the game, forward Mackenzie Holmes was mostly neutralized, with forward Eboni Walker, who started for injured Rebeka Mikulášiková, not giving the Indiana star much room to move.
On the offensive end though, the Buckeyes couldn’t capitalize. Walker missed two early layups, showing obvious frustration at the misses, appearing to force her shots. Ohio State and Indiana were locked up at six points apiece, but then Indiana looked like Indiana.
The rest of the first quarter featured an 18-6 run for the Crimson and the second quarter didn’t go any better for the Buckeyes. Indiana went on a 17-2 run to start the quarter and leading the way was substitute guard Sara Scalia.
Scalia joined the Hoosiers via the transfer portal from fellow Big Ten side the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The guard had nine of those 17 points to start the second quarter and hitting 17 total points in the first half on 5-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
After those first few minutes of effective defense, Holmes turned back into Holmes. The forward led all players with 18 points in the first half, hitting from not only in the paint but from midrange.
Indiana went up 27 points in the second quarter, but the Buckeyes weren’t giving up the fight. It began with a three-point shot by guard Taylor Mikesell.
It was the guard’s lone three of the half, but it began a seven-point run, only their second time in the game to that point with back-to-back baskets. The reason Mikesell was ineffective from deep was the game plan of the Hoosiers. Like other teams late into the Big Ten schedule, Mikesell wasn’t given any room to shoot, courtesy of guard Chloe Moore-McNeil.
Mikesell had five points on 2-for-7 shooting in the first half, but making up the Buckeyes’ scoring was forward Cotie McMahon. The freshman scored 12 points in the first half and in the second quarter had half of them, all on long runs down the court.
It started with McMahon intercepting a pass to Holmes and running the length of the court on a layup. She made similar runs on the next two offensive possessions, but the Buckeyes’ defense couldn’t stop Indiana on the other end of the basket, allowing the visitors to shoot 74.2% for the first two quarters.
After cutting their 27-point deficit down to 20, the Hoosiers pushed it back out to 25 points going into the halftime locker room.
Inside the Schottenstein Center, it was muggy. The higher than normal February temperatures meant a toastier inside to the arena in the first half. The second half it cooled down with the air starting to work and the Buckeyes’ shooting followed suit.
Ohio State went 64.3% in the third quarter, led by a pair of 10-point scorers in McMahon and Mikesell. The two led a Buckeyes quarter where they outscored the Hoosiers 24-14. A part of that was better perimeter defense.
After Indiana shot 63.6% from deep in the first half, they shot only 28.6% in the third quarter. That allowed the Buckeyes to trim the lead down to 10 points with 2:11 remaining in the third quarter.
However, the Hoosiers weren’t held back for too long. Indiana hit their only two three-point shots in the quarter in the final two minutes. Scalia added her sixth of the game and Berger hit her first. Ohio State let the lead go back up by five, but still trimmed 10-points off their halftime deficit, going into the final quarter down 15 points.
The Buckeyes needed a strong start to the fourth quarter to have a fighting chance, but it began in the Crimson’s favor. Indiana scored the first two baskets of the quarter, pushing coach Kevin McGuff to take an early quarter timeout.
Out of the timeout, Walker scored her 10th point of the night and Taylor Thierry followed it up with a layup of her own in a quieter than usual night for the sophomore.
While the Buckeyes showed fight, it was two quarters too early. Ohio State ultimately falls to the top team in the conference, losing to Indiana 83-59.
Injuries Stack Up
Before Monday’s game, the questions surrounding guard Jacy Sheldon and Mikulášiková were a main point of concern for the Buckeyes and it was a worst case scenario for Ohio State. Neither of the usual Scarlet & Gray starters made it onto the court against the Hoosiers.
Sheldon’s absence was especially frustrating for fans after getting a glimpse of her return against the No. 8 Maryland Terrapins. Without either of the players, the Buckeyes’ smaller lineup had trouble all night matching up against Holmes in the paint.
Also, the first half didn’t have the same intensity in the press that a healthy Sheldon would give and without Mikulášiková, it was more difficult to pull people out of the paint to give other players to work.
Coach McGuff references having Sheldon ready for the stretch run, but with now a minimum of only five games left, including postseason, the question is: When does that stretch run begin?
Following Monday’s game, the Scarlet & Gray play their final unranked opponent of the conference season on Thursday. Thats’ when the Buckeyes travel to Happy Valley for a matchup against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Following Thursday’s game, Ohio State goes back to the ranked grind, starting the final week of the season in Michigan against the No. 12 Michigan Wolverines before welcoming the No. 8 Maryland Terrapins in the final game of the season. It’s the Buckeyes’ last chance to solidify a top-four spot on Feb. 24.