The Ohio State women’s basketball team couldn’t ask for a game soon enough after their 36-point defeat to the No. 8 Maryland Terrapins on Sunday. It came Wednesday night, against the Golden Gophers, a team who went up 10 points against Ohio State on Jan. 5 only for the Scarlet and Gray to surge ahead in the fourth quarter.
Since then, that surge hasn’t been there for head coach Kevin McGuff’s side, losing four of their last five. On Wednesday, they got back to their winning ways, defeating the Minnesota Golden Gophers big, 93-63.
The storyline that wasn’t really as scary as it looked was the absence of guard Jacy Sheldon. After missing 16 games in a row, Sheldon played 25 minutes against the Terrapins. For Wednesday, leaving Sheldon’s name off the roster was by design, allowing the guard to come back with a slower return schedule than going straight back into playing 40 minutes a game.
Before the game tipped, Ohio State celebrated. The first was for guard Taylor Mikesell. Against Wisconsin on Feb. 1, the Northeast Ohio guard hit her 1,000th point as a Buckeye in her second season. After Mikesell received a basketball commemorating the accomplishment, the Buckeyes began their Black History Month celebration.
With players and team managers wearing special Black History Month shirts, the Black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” played throughout the arena with every Buckeye standing on the sideline for it. Compared to only a handful staying on the court for the usual United States national anthem played before games.
Once the game began, the celebrations were over and the Buckeyes went to work. In the first quarter, Ohio State had its ups and downs, but mostly the ups.
The Scarlet and Gray forced nine turnovers on the young Golden Gophers side and went on eight and 13-point runs, leading 23-10 after the first quarter. A big part of that was the forward/guard combo Taylor Thierry.
Thierry had only four points but early on she was everywhere on the court. The starting guard had three steals, three assists, three rebounds, and a block. On the block inside the defensive paint, Thierry took the ball down the court herself and hit a layup, two of her four points in the quarter.
Steals came from leaping into the air at mid-court, poking the ball away from behind offensive players, and generally filling space with strong court vision, size, and athleticism.
In terms of the bad, it came at the 5:53 mark. After taking a shot from deep on the offensive end of the court, forward Rebeka Mikulášiková was bumped during a block. The Slovakian big was in obvious pain and needed help from team members to get off the court.
Then, with only 1:02 left in the quarter, Thierry joined Mikulášiková off the court. It wasn’t as serious as the injury to Mikulášiková, with Thierry knocked in the mouth and bleeding on the sideline into a cup. Thierry returned halfway through the second quarter.
The second quarter saw Minnesota come to life, scoring 15 points in the first 5:10 of the second quarter after scoring only 10 points total in the first quarter. However, the Buckeyes' lead stayed near 20 points because of outstanding shooting by Mikesell.
Halfway through the second quarter, Mikesell had 14 points on 5-for-5 shooting, hitting all four attempts she had from beyond the arc. It was a performance on the offensive end that Ohio State was missing over the past two weeks.
Defensively though, Minnesota was getting their points through mostly open looks. With the Buckeyes going hard on the full-court press, Minnesota found avenues for quick passing. Freshman guard Mara Braun scored eight points herself in the same time as Mikesell’s 14, going 2-for-2 from deep.
Ohio State kept the pace and pushed it further though, scoring 29 points on an astounding 84.6% shooting in the first half.
The second half began just like the first half ended: with a Mikesell three. Ohio State continued its onslaught in the third quarter, not letting up on the Golden Gophers. In past games where the third quarter with big leads meant a less energetic Buckeyes team, coach McGuff’s side wasn’t letting off the gas.
Within the first three minutes, Ohio State extended their 19-point lead up to 27, scoring 10 of the first 12 points of the quarter.
At a timeout by Minnesota, McGuff was either yelling to be heard over the crowd noise but red in the face, the Buckeyes coach was screaming at the team. It could be due to those previous lulls by Ohio State and pushing for the elusive 40-minute performance by the Buckeyes.
For the third quarter in a row, the Buckeyes continued to increase their lead. The Buckeyes out shot the Golden Gophers 28-14 on 66.7% shooting in the third quarter and went into the fourth quarter up a more than comfortable 33 points, leading 80-47.
The running continued in the fourth quarter. After Minnesota guard Mara Braun hit a three to start the scoring, Ohio State responded. It started with Mikesell. After being blocked in the paint, the Buckeyes held a fast break from the Gophers from turning into points. On the defensive rebound, starting point guard Rikki Harris launched a pass that looked like it was in preparation for Super Bowl Sunday.
Harris’ pass found Mikesell all alone running towards an open layup. Then, after Thierry was knocked to the ground on offense, the guard responded with three straight layups of her own. Ohio State went on a nine-point run following Minnesota’s three and it caused fans in attendance to avoid traffic, leaving en masse.
The Buckeyes went on to win comfortably 93-63.
Honoring Taylor Mikesell
On a night when Mikesell was honored for her career, the guard did something she’s done frequently in the last two seasons: she took the game over.
In the second quarter, Mikesell kept Ohio State’s near 20-point lead intact. The guard scored 14 of the team’s 29 points before halftime, after having tough performances over the past few games.
Mikesell’s 17 first-half points were higher than her total points in five of the Buckeyes’ last seven games. The former Oregon Duck ended the evening with 24 points.
A Dominant Cotie McMahon
Leading the Buckeyes in the win, in the scoring column, was McMahon. The Ohioan scored 25 points and went 100% from the free-throw line. That’s a huge feat for the freshman considering how often she gets to the line.
McMahon had nine free throw attempts thanks to her physical style of play, attacking the basket. With those nine free shots, McMahon increased her team-leading 119 free throw attempts. That’s good enough for eighth in the conference, and the second-highest for a freshman behind Rutgers guard Kaylene Smikle and her 139 attempts.
Taylor Thierry Having Another Night
Once again, Thierry was pivotal for the Buckeyes. If it didn’t happen every night for Ohio State, it’d be a standout performance but instead, it was what fans of the Scarlet and Gray now expect.
Thierry ended the night with double-digit scoring for her ninth straight game and grabbing at least five rebounds in 14 straight. In the fourth quarter, she was substituted early with 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals, and a block.
The all-around playmaker continued to do what she’s done all season: quickly become the next star of the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Ohio State goes from near the bottom of the Big Ten standings in Minnesota to a match-up against the top team in the league on Monday. That’s when the No. 2 Indiana Hoosiers come to the Schottenstein Center.
The last time the Buckeyes and Hoosiers took the court, Ohio State had a lead at halftime, only to fall in the third quarter and not find a way to get back up. So, the Scarlet and Gray hope they can avenge that 78-65 defeat and take that momentum into the final three games of the season.