On Friday, Feb. 24, the Ohio State women’s basketball team were two points down against the No. 7 Maryland Terrapins with less than 10 seconds remaining. The Buckeyes lost that game when freshman Cotie McMahon made a second chance shot but less than a second later than the sounding of the buzzer. Friday, in the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament, the Buckeyes were on the other side of a similar situation.
With 23 seconds remaining, the Michigan Wolverines had possession, down 81-79 to the Scarlet & Gray. The Maize & Blue’s goal was to do what the Buckeyes couldn’t do exactly one week prior.
The possession came off a turnover from Ohio State, who were up five points 20 seconds earlier. That’s when Michigan guard Maddie Nolan cut that to the two-point lead Ohio State was forced to defend when she hit a three-point shot prior to the Buckeyes turnover. Outside of obviously stopping a shot, there were other focuses.
“If we foul, they were going to go to the line and could have had an opportunity to tie the game,” said guard Taylor Thierry. “So honestly, like I said, being aggressive but not overly aggressive to where they get a call.”
For head coach Kevin McGuff, he was concerned about the Buckeyes defense. Earlier in the game, Ohio State’s out-of-bounds inbound defense led to easy chances for Michigan.
“So I was concerned about that, I was screaming about that, making sure we didn’t do the same thing and giving them a layup,” said McGuff.
The Wolverines had multiple options available to them at that moment. Thierry thought it would go two ways. The first was guard Maddie Nolan, who entered the final possessions with three shots from deep already and 16 points on the day. The other is the obvious choice in guard Leigha Brown, Michigan’s leading scorer.
Michigan had options beyond that too. Over the last three games, including the Big Ten second round against Penn State, forward Emily Kiser averaged 21.3 points per game. Kiser also plays a position that the Buckeyes haven’t always done well at stopping inside the paint.
Ohio State had a steep challenge to stand in front of Wolverines players and not let the role players of Michigan play those roles. Instead, a backdoor cut found guard Elise Stuck with the ball. With the defense’s back to Stuck, McMahon swung around and timed a block without fouling. The ball flew out of bounds with 10.3 seconds remaining. Michigan ball.
“I thought we forced them to shoot over us, which was the goal, and everybody crashed the boards,” said coach McGuff.
It was a high pressure situation for sure. After three single possession results in the second round of the tournament, the Buckeyes and Wolverines game was the closest in the quarterfinals. With those 10.3 seconds, Michigan went to Brown.
“So it felt like we had to buckle down and focus on one thing, and that was getting the stop,” said McMahon.
That’s what Ohio State did. With defensive pressure and the awareness to avoid fouling, Brown was in the lane, with bodies surrounding her, going for the game-tying layup. Brown missed the attempt but picked up the offensive rebound, retreating to more open ground and a midrange shot.
Brown got the last shot off with too much muscle, sending the ball beyond the rim and rebounded by McMahon who grabbed the ball, sprinted away from the basket and towards her bench to celebrate as time expired.
Although it only took 23 seconds, for the Buckeyes it felt like an eternity.
“I don’t know, just felt like it took about 67 seconds,” said coach McGuff, relieved following the victory.”
The 81-79 win is important, and the defensive stand is something to celebrate, but as is the life of an athlete, especially in a day-after-day tournament, the successes are immediately forgotten. Instead, the focus shifts to the next steep challenge for the Buckeyes: Try to beat the Indiana Hoosiers.
“Yeah, definitely going into this next game we’re going to have a lot more energy,” said Thierry. “We won this game, that’s great, but we’re moving on to the next because the most important game is the next one.”