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Jacy Sheldon’s impact in return against Michigan

The Buckeye didn’t light up the stat sheet Friday, but her impact in all facets of the game can’t be ignored, especially with Indiana looming

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

After seemingly weeks at week-to-week or day-to-day injury status for Ohio State women’s basketball guard Jacy Sheldon, the Dublin, Ohio native returned Friday against the Michigan Wolverines. While Sheldon’s minutes were limited, her impact on the Buckeyes was anything but limited.

For months, Sheldon’s absence with a lower leg injury, later narrowed down to a foot injury by head coach Kevin McGuff, kept the 2021-22 unanimous All-B1G First Team guard out of action. During that time, Sheldon was touted for her work off the court, including supporting her teammates, being an extra eye for her teammates on the sideline and generally filling into the role of another assistant coach.

All of those are great things to have in a player, but Sheldon’s impact is better felt on the court. Her teammates agree.

“My gosh, it was such a huge help, honestly,” said guard/forward Taylor Thierry. “She’s an amazing player offensively. Defensively she adds that energy we really need, and she really keeps us focused and connected.”

Although the stats won’t jump out compared to games by Thierry or forward Cotie McMahon, Sheldon made the most of her limited minutes on the court.

In 13 minutes, Sheldon had the second strongest +/- of the game for Ohio State with 10, surpassed only by fellow substitute, forward Rebeka Mikulášiková. When Sheldon was on the court, the Buckeyes were just better.

“We play a little faster with her in the game,” said McGuff. “When we press, we’re significantly better with her in there.”

Sheldon had one steal in the game but overall was pressuring the toughest Wolverines on the court. Take guard Leigha Brown for example. The leading scorer for Michigan had 19 points, compared to 36 against Ohio State on Feb. 20. When in the game, it was Sheldon pressuring the guard.

Also, when guard Rikki Harris left the game with 1:38 left, with a potential injury that McGuff and the Buckeyes didn’t know the status of following the game, Sheldon stepped into the pressure moment.

It’s not exactly new for Sheldon, being in those moments, but the guard hasn’t been in one since Nov. 30 against the Louisville Cardinals. The lone game she’s played since that Buckeyes win in the ACC/B1G Challenge was a 36-point drubbing at the hands of the Maryland Terrapins on Feb. 5.

In the fourth quarter on Friday, with the game tied at 76-76, Sheldon had a game changing play. With 1:22 remaining, the guard had the ball, fulfilling her point guard duty of looking to run a play. After dribbling for two seconds, Sheldon composed herself and hit a monster triple on her own with Thierry setting a successful screen.

Guard Taylor Mikesell followed it up with a layup and those five points were the last Ohio State needed in the 81-79 victory.

Now, Sheldon has the chance on Saturday to do something she hasn’t done all season: Face the Indiana Hoosiers. Ohio State’s been without the star guard in both defeats, resulting in a slightly slower Buckeyes side. Saturday could be different, with no set minutes restriction.

“We’re trying to just like limit the long stretches that she plays, but it’s not really a specific number,” said McGuff. “Because if it was up to her, it would be 40. Tomorrow you might see us fighting over there on the sidelines, so you might see her trying to put herself in.”