clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ohio State women’s half time talk that made history

The Buckeyes erased a 24-point deficit in Minneapolis to keep their Big Ten Tournament alive

Indiana v Ohio State Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Ohio State women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff is a family man. McGuff has six children with his wife Letitia. On Saturday at halftime, when the Buckeyes were down 20 points to the No. 1 tournament seeded Indiana Hoosiers, they came to his mind, but not in the way you might think.

“First thought in my head is it’s my son’s confirmation tomorrow, and should I talk to Beth about getting the plane ready so we can get back and I can make that?,” said McGuff. “But then I thought, I don’t want to do it.”

Ohio State didn’t plan any red eye flights, instead they broke a Big Ten record by coming back from 24 points in a 79-75 victory. Before the Buckeyes got there, they had a chat in the halftime locker room. Part of that message, oddly enough, was centered around continuing to do what the Buckeyes did to start the game.

In that first half, Ohio State scored 26 points on 28.6% shooting. In one stretch, the Scarlet & Gray missed 14 shots in a row from the run of play. When it began, the Buckeyes were tied 10-10, but when it ended after 7:41 of game clock, Ohio State was down 14 points to a side who twice this season beat them by double-digits.

“We talked about continuing to get good shots. I thought the shots that we got were fine in the first half,” said McGuff. “We just weren’t making them.”

In the third quarter, it got better. After shooting going 1-for-13 from three-point range in the first half, the Buckeyes went 3-for-8 in the third quarter. Also, their shooting percentage increased nearly 20 points to 42.9%.

Compare that to the Buckeyes’ regular season average of 47.3% and it doesn’t leap off the page. However, when Ohio State is hitting shots, the full court press joins the conversation, and it talks over everything.

“When we had intensity on our press, we got a lot of stops,” said guard/forward hybrid Taylor Thierry. “Obviously with Jacy (Sheldon) back, it helps us have a lot of energy and pressure in the press. So it shows that we can get stops, and that kind of helped us come back.”

Thierry’s teammate, guard Jacy Sheldon, played her second game in a row and was the defensive catalyst, grabbing a team high four steals, but she was hardly alone in the defensive category.

Point guard Rikki Harris had three steals on top of 13 points and six assists. Harris tied Sheldon in +/- on the night too with +20 point differential when they were on the court. On one steal by Harris, she ended up seated on the media table to dive for an interception and keep it in bounds as she hit the deck.

Thierry and forward Cotie McMahon, who each had double-doubles with 19 points and 12 rebounds for Thierry and 12 points and 14 rebounds for McMahon, each had three steals themselves. Ohio State was everywhere on the court making life extremely tough for the Hoosiers.

Ohio State had nine more attempts from the field in the second half and it wasn’t simply forcing turnovers. When Indiana did shoot, their second half efficiency was 27.6%. That means Buckeyes made it to the right spots to defend. Also, McMahon guarded forward Mackenzie Holmes exclusively all night, without any practice with that pairing before the game.

“She (Holmes) absolutely murdered us the first game and the second game. We had no answer,” said coach McGuff. “We knew we had to make some type of adjustment there, either double her, so we put Cotie on and fronted just to try to keep it out of her hands.”

McMahon grabbed two of her three steals in that position. Indiana is successful because they lob the ball into Holmes and let her use her size, speed and efficiency in the paint. Instead of trying to get between the rim and Holmes,

McGuff’s strategy of not letting her get the ball in the first place was a game-changer. How effective was it? Holmes had two points in the fourth quarter, going 1-for-3 from the floor.

On Jan. 26 and Feb. 13, Holmes scored a combined 59 points against the Buckeyes. Saturday, Holmes ended the night with 12 points. Holmes’ lowest point total in any Big Ten game this season, tying a total she had against Morehead State where the forward only played 18 minutes.

Doing the same thing wasn’t the only halftime adjustment. In the second half, McGuff went for a smaller set of players, bringing in guard Emma Shumate and sitting both forwards Eboni Walker and Rebeka Mikulášiková on the bench.

It worked well considering Shumate’s long arms and ability to defend and block in the paint. Also, it gave the Buckeyes more speed to close down shooters on the perimeter. While small adjustments, they overall paid dividends in the comeback victory.

There was more said by McGuff in that locker room. It explains a lot of what fans saw in the second half.

“The last thing I said, I said, ‘hey, guys, there’s nothing to save this for. We’re not playing until the NCAA Tournament, which is weeks away,’” said McGuff, recalling the halftime talk. “‘So everything we got, we’ve got to show some fight because, if we want to truly play our best basketball down the stretch of the season, we’ve got to fight.’”