The Ohio State women’s basketball team came two games short of reaching its goal of winning an NCAA Championship. Monday night, as the sound of final buzzer rang through Climate Pledge Arena, shooting guard Taylor Mikesell’s normally stoic demeanor broke. The guard was overcome with emotion.
It’s a moment that on television, networks like to exploit. Instead of focusing solely on the game-winning team, a camera is usually in the face of a student athlete, or fan in the stands, who’s crying over a tough defeat.
After five NCAA seasons, the buzzer’s sound not only signified end of the game, but of Mikesell’s collegiate career. It’s a career that shouldn’t be remembered with tears but with the way Mikesell played in two dominant years and how the guard always went down fighting.
Saturday, the second-year member of the Scarlet & Gray scored nine points, well below the guard’s 17 points per game season average. Mikesell was playing injured, worn from a season of starting 34 games leading into the Sweet Sixteen matchup against the UConn Huskies.
At timeouts, the guard received medical treatment and still sat out only 1:29 of the game clock. Before the Buckeyes’ Monday night Elite Eight game against the Virginia Tech Hokies, Mikesell assured she was good and was ready to go. Hard to argue with Mikesell with how Monday’s game started.
Mikesell scored nine points in the first quarter, all off three-point shots. The guard looked healthy and up for the challenge of ahead that evening. Under the surface though, Mikesell was under the same pain felt on Saturday, citing adrenaline as how she kept going.
By the time the first half ended, Mikesell scored 19 points on 6-for-7 shooting, five of which coming from beyond the arc. In the second half, the entire Buckeyes’ steam shooting sunk, Mikesell included, until the fourth quarter.
Each time up the court on offense, the Buckeyes increased their intensity in hopes of trimming down a lead that grew to 13 points for the Hokies. Mikesell’s six second half points came in that fourth quarter.
The shots were a three that put the Hokies lead back down to 10 points. Then, with 44 seconds remaining, Mikesell got the deficit down to six points, giving Ohio State hope.
That three-pointer was the last points the Buckeyes scored in the 22-23 season.
On Nov. 10, 2021, Mikesell started off the Buckeyes scoring. Overall, the 71-48 defeat of Bucknell University won’t enter the record books, but it started the career of Mikesell back in her home state.
Following two post high school years with the Maryland Terrapins, and a trying season with the Oregon Ducks, Mikesell came back to the Buckeye State and not only gave Ohio State fans two seasons to remember, but took a team that had few expectations from the outside looking in and turned them into a league champion and one of only eight teams remaining in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
In two years where Mikesell never missed a start, the Massillon, Ohio native scored 1,215 points, more than any Buckeye in the past two years. Mikesell led the Scarlet & Gray in not only an improbable 2021-22 Big Ten Regular Season Championship run but within three points of the 2022 Elite Eight.
This season, Mikesell did one better. As the Buckeyes lost not one but two starting point guards, Mikesell continued to suit up every game and lead a young Ohio State side. As defensives honed in, fouled and made life difficult on the guard, Mikesell played shooting guard, point guard and decoy, making her teammates better.
“She’s leaving the way you should leave,” said head coach Kevin McGuff. “Knowing that you poured every ounce of heart and soul, effort, energy into a program and that’s just who she is and it says so much about her.”
Following Saturday’s win, her teammates called Mikesell “tough as nails.” Following Monday’s defeat, Mikesell was asked to reflect back on what this team means to her.
It wasn’t moments a fellow Buckeye brought to games where Ohio State beat the UConn Huskies in the Sweet Sixteen or coming back from a record 24-point deficit to pull out a victory in the Big Ten Tournament. It wasn’t even pulling together to win that championship ring for the 21-22 season, when many didn’t give the team a chance.
Mikesell’s response was a reminder that as much attention and focus is placed on the competitive side of NCAA basketball, she’s a student athlete.
“They’re kind of the best part about this whole thing,” said Mikesell. “Like, honestly, probably going to miss just being able to hang out with them most, more than anything.”
If that isn’t enough to remember Mikesell by, remember her as the Academic All-B1G, two-time All-B1G First Team selection, 1,000-point scoring Big Ten champion who poured everything she had into The Ohio State University.