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No. 18 Ohio State women’s basketball pulls away from Maryland to win 84-76

McMahon, Thierry, and Mikulášiková carried the load until Sheldon got hot in the final few minutes.

Ohio State University athletic department

Due to vacated wins following sanctions against the Ohio State women’s basketball team, the last official win for the Buckeyes in Maryland, against the Terrapins, came all the way back on Jan. 2, 2016. Wednesday night, the scarlet and gray had a chance to stop that streak, taking on a Terps side that’s still working on replacing holes left by now-WNBA guards Diamond Miller and Abby Meyers.

With the different look of the Terrapins, the experience of Ohio State came through. Head coach Kevin McGuff and the Buckeyes take an 84-76 victory back to Columbus.

After winning the jump ball, Ohio State didn’t have as many positives to talk about on the offensive end of the ball. On the first offensive possession, three missed shots without giving the Terrapins the ball felt like foreshadowing for the start of the game.

The Buckeyes shot 1-for-9 to start the game, with seven of those shots coming from beyond the arc. With the Terrapins playing a strong zone, the scarlet and gray couldn’t break it to have opportunities near the rim. After almost five minutes, Coach McGuff saw enough, making three substitutions on the floor, leaving only starters guard Jacy Sheldon and forward Cotie McMahon in the game.

However, it didn’t put the Buckeyes in too big of a hole, because of turnovers by the Terrapins. Maryland had four to start the first half of the first quarter. Also, Ohio State took easy chances near the basket away, with McMahon and forward Taylor Thierry earning early blocks.

Where Maryland did excel was getting into the paint for the spectacular. The first three shots for the Terps were all layups using speed and agility to split defenders. By the time there was a timeout whistle, Ohio State was only down two points to the home side, but it didn’t last long.

Coming out of the timeout, Maryland began finding space behind the Ohio State defense, scoring two quick fast break layups with no one defending the final player.

Coach McGuff’s timeout gave the team time to calm down and came out of the short break closing down those open options near the basket. Scoring also came courtesy of guard Celeste Taylor.

Even with two fouls, McGuff trusted his graduate senior shooting guard and it paid off. A three-point shot, steal, and layup put the Buckeyes up one late in the quarter. Maryland scored a late midrange shot, but after being down five at one point, Ohio State likely felt good about being down only one point.

In the second quarter, the Buckeyes defensive issues flip-flopped. After a quick Ohio State lead thanks to Thierry hitting a quick layup to start the frame, the Terrapins began hitting shots on the perimeter. A long two-point shot and three-pointer had the Buckeyes down, with the scarlet and gray leveraging bigs to turn things around.

Forward Rebeka Mikulášiková found her stride inside the paint. The Slovakian spun her way around the Terrapins to the tune of two baskets inside the paint; Mikulášiková’s second tied the game.

Also, forward Taiyier Parks entered the game and gave the Buckeyes size in the paint. The former Michigan State Spartan had two points and two rebounds in limited minutes, making the most of her time on the court.

Even so, the scarlet and gray couldn’t consistently hit shots, instead needing impressive individual moments to keep the game close. Near the end of the half, it was courtesy of guard Emma Shumate.

The guard who celebrated her 21st birthday on Tuesday celebrated with off-the-ball heroics. Shumate made her presence known first on a midrange miss by McMahon. Left unguarded by the Terrapins, Shumate rushed to the basket, grabbed the offensive rebound, and hit the layup, bringing the game within two points.

Shumate followed that up with a block on the defensive side of the ball, the third Buckeyes block of the half, but Ohio State couldn’t capitalize with the final shot of the half. Instead, McGuff’s side entered halftime down 39-37 after 40.6% shooting, and only 2-for-16 from three-point range.

Entering Wednesday’s game, focusing on Terrapins star guard Shyanne Sellers was an obvious focus, but because of foul trouble, the Ohioan didn't see many of the first 20 minutes of the game on the bench. In eight minutes in the first half, Sellers had a rebound, an assist, no points, and three turnovers.

A quiet game early for Sellers made the deficit more of a surprise. Instead of the junior, it was sophomore Bri McDaniel leading the Terrapins in the first half. After playing less than 10 minutes a game last season, McDaniel showed why head coach Brenda Frese wanted her in the starting lineup.

McDaniel’s 13 points and four assists were both team highs, and adding three rebounds, stepping up with Sellers watching from the sidelines.

If Ohio State wanted to avoid the loss, it would need to slow down the Terrapins shooting. Maryland went 50% in the half, plus going 33.3% from beyond the arc, 10 percentage points higher than the Buckeyes’ average shooting allowed from deep entering the game.

The start of the second half was difficult for the Buckeyes, with both Sheldon and Taylor picking up their third fouls within the first two minutes of the quarter. Fortunately, the forwards continued to produce.

Both Thierry and Mikulášiková again picked up the offense, tying the game after the Terrapins got off to a quick five-point lead. The two scored the first nine points of the quarter, including a three-pointer by Mikulášiková and Thierry tying the game at 46 apiece on a second-chance basket.

From there, the two sides traded baskets, with no team taking control of the game. Until Thierry and Mikulášiková returned to their scoring run. A layup by the former and a three-point shot but the latter gave Ohio State its largest lead of the game, going up four points with a minute and change remaining in the quarter.

With all the back-and-forth play in the third quarter, the final minute was dominated by the referees’ whistles. Both teams, in the bonus, closed the quarter, and two missed attempts by the Buckeyes shrunk the four-point lead to one with 10 minutes remaining. Of the 19 points in the quarter, 15 came from Mikulášiková and Thierry who scored eight and seven points, respectively.

McMahon, who entered the fourth quarter with seven points, grabbed attention to start the fourth quarter with her defense. After hitting a layup, the forward rushed back on defense to stop the long pass by the Terrapins. On the same drive, McMahon jumped to save a ball from going out of bounds and in one move got the ball to a teammate to sustain possession. On the next defensive drive, McMahon poked a ball away, going out of bounds, and reacted the way she would after scoring an impressive layup through defenders.

It looked like the Buckeyes were ready to hit another intensity level, with McMahon leading the charge. That work showed offensively. Ohio State scored the first six points of the quarter, extending its lead to seven points. However, Maryland responded when that energy lulled.

The Terrapins scored the next two baskets, both on the fast break with the Ohio State defense not getting back in time. It cut a nine-point lead down to five, resulting in a timeout by Coach McGuff to gather the team for the remaining 5:40 of the game.

Returning to the action, McMahon picked up where she left off, this time on the offensive boards. The sophomore continued fantastic work off the ball. In six minutes, McMahon secured four offensive rebounds, on top of her team-leading six points in the quarter, at that point.

As great as the sophomore played, concerns grew for holding the lead with Taylor grabbing her fourth foul. Her and Sheldon’s foul trouble meant that the two would need to walk on eggshells for the rest of the game. Sheldon decided instead to run to the rim.

With 2:33 remaining in the fourth quarter, Sheldon hit her first field goal of the game. Then, an assist and another layup pushed the Buckeyes' lead up to eight points. Forcing a timeout by coach Frese.

Out of the timeout, Sheldon decided to keep going. This time, timing a Terrapin pass perfectly and going on a clean fast break by herself. That layup extended the Ohio State lead to 10 points with less than a minute remaining.

Maryland entered the evening with a 19-game home winning streak, but the scarlet and gray didn’t let it get to 20 in a row, holding on for the 84-76 win.


Mikulášiková’s Run Continues

Sunday, the Slovakian forward earned herself the “dub chain” following a strong second half performance against the Spartans. Wednesday, that play continued, even better than before. Mikulášiková led the Buckeyes with 20 points, and went 3-for-6 from beyond the arc, but it wasn't only scoring, it was when the scoring came.

Mikulášiková stepped up when the usual players like Sheldon and McMahon were less of an offensive impact. Instead, they were finding Mikulášiková who played her best game of the season.


McMahon as Fourth Quarter Catalyst

Entering the fourth quarter, the outstanding Buckeyes sophomore had seven points and four rebounds in three quarters of work. From the start of the final 10 minutes, McMahon showed a level not seen in her short NCAA career from a support role.

The forward grabbed seven more points, sure, but what most impressed was the work everywhere else. McMahon added five rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, four on offense, limiting Maryland attempts at a comeback.

If the energy and intensity McMahon shows on offense shows like it did on Wednesday night, the forward will become more dangerous than teams already expect.


Trusting Taylor

The difference Wednesday might go down to fouls, and how coaches reacted to them.

Both Taylor and Maryland’s Sellers each earned fouls early in the contest, two in the first quarter for each of the stars. For Sellers, that meant a spot on the bench, playing only seven minutes in the first half, scoring zero points.

For Taylor, McGuff kept the graduate senior in and it paid dividends. Taylor led the Buckeyes in scoring and rebounding in the first 20 minutes of the game with seven points and three rebounds. Plus, Taylor added two steals. While guards like Rikki Harris and Madison Greene are players worthy of time on the court, Taylor showed the composure to play despite the added pressure of getting closer to fouling out.


What’s Next

What’s next is not arguably the biggest home game of the season for Ohio State. It is the biggest home game of the season for Ohio State.

The Buckeyes welcome reigning National Player of the Year Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes to the Schottenstein Center. On national television, the two sides tip at noon ET, in front of a fully open arena. With the Hawkeyes bringing eyeballs and ticket buyers to each away game, the Buckeyes opened the upper bowl, which is usually closed.

Ohio State looks for a better performance against the Hawkeyes than the two defeats it suffered last season. Especially the Big Ten Tournament game, where Iowa, and a triple-double by Clark, led the Hawkeyes to a tournament title in a 72-105 win over the Buckeyes.