The Schottenstein Center on Sunday was at a whole new level of excitement for Ohio State women’s basketball. That’s because of the presence of Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark. In front of a record-breaking, sellout, women's basketball crowd, the odds were stacked against the Buckeyes.
Despite the odds and foul troubles by three starters, Ohio State fed off the crowd, defeating the favored No. 2 Hawkeyes 100-92. Including a 12-point deficit comeback and five minutes of Buckeye-dominant overtime.
From the jump, the energy and noise were palpable. Entering it, the matchup within the matchup was Iowa’s Clark versus former Duke shooting guard Celeste Taylor. The former National Defensive Player of the Year finalist gave Ohio State a defensive matchup it can feel better about going up against the leading scorer and assist-creator in the nation.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Taylor’s presence was missing within the first two minutes of the game thanks to foul trouble. While a single person alone can’t stop Clark, Taylor gave Ohio State the best like-for-like matchup. However, even without Taylor, Ohio State showed that it was up to the task early.
Leading the charge was sophomore forward Cotie McMahon. Seemingly feeding off the crowd, the Centerville, Ohio native gave the capacity crowd something to cheer about. McMahon aggressively went to the basket. It was a performance fans were used to seeing last season in the postseason run where Ohio State went to the Elite Eight.
McMahon led Ohio State with 11 points. Clark responded scoring 13 and sprinkling in two assists.
It was clear early though that head coach Kevin McGuff wanted to break any Iowa attempt at setting up its zone defense. With the three-point shot eluding the Scarlet and Gray, leveraging forwards looked like it was working. At the end of the first quarter it was 26-24 in the Hawkeyes favor, but considering the loss of Taylor, a one-possession game against the No. 2 team in the country was a foundation-builder.
In place of Taylor was guard Rikki Harris. The Buckeyes’ sixth player, also known as the “bench starter,” entered the game and hit two of the three made shots from deep for Ohio State, marking just the third time this season the senior from Indianapolis has knocked down multiple three-point attempts.
Ohio State returned all five starters to the court for the second quarter and continued the inside game with McMahon. Although the forward missed two free throws to start the 10 minutes, it did put the Hawkeyes bigs in foul trouble. Both Hannah Stuelke, who started after missing Iowa’s Tuesday game against Wisconsin, and Sharon Goodman went to the bench with two fouls apiece.
Defensively, the Buckeyes' strong first-quarter presence had a lull in the second. After going up two points, Iowa went on an 11-3 run to go up 38-32. On most of the Hawkeyes’ five scoring possessions, Ohio State wasn’t back fast enough on defense to stop easy transition baskets. It forced a timeout by McGuff with 5:41 left in the half, down six, hoping to stop the bleeding on defense.
The Buckeyes responded well out of that timeout, with Iowa only getting off five shots the rest of the quarter, hitting two. Ohio State then found the deep shot, courtesy of guard Jacy Sheldon. After missing all three of her shots in the first quarter, Sheldon led Ohio State with eight points in the second quarter.
Of those eight points, two came from deep. On the first, forward Rebeka Mikulášiková, who had five points and three assists in the first half, drove to the basket from beyond the arc but quickly threw a no-look pass to Sheldon, converting the attempt. Then, with the Buckeyes down five with less than a minute to play, the Dublin, Ohio native hit her second, from the corner, to put Ohio State down two points heading into the halftime locker room.
Clark did what she does in the first half, scoring 20 points, but rebounds and assists were down slightly. The superstar senior from Des Moines had four assists and only two rebounds in the first half, with Ohio State winning the rebounding margin 17-16 in the first 20 minutes. McMahon’s 12 points led all Buckeyes.
To start the second half, fouls crept up again on Taylor while trying to defend Clark. After stopping a Clark drive to the basket, and knocking the ball free. With a review, the call stood and Taylor went back to the bench. Joining her soon after was Iowa forward Kate Martin, as the Iowa senior quickly picked up her fourth. At that point in the game, nine players across both teams had at least two fouls, with the teams combing for 28 in two and a half quarters, leaving a game that didn’t feature too much flow.
Iowa responded, playing a strong inside game themselves, mirroring what made the Buckeyes successful in the first quarter. The Hawkeyes went on a seven-point run, extending the lead to eight points, the largest of the game to that point. In the run, the Buckeyes missed all five attempted shots and needed to help themselves to make it a game again. It came from an unlikely source.
Guard Emma Shumate, who had just entered the game in the third quarter, hit a three on her first touch of the ball in the game. Then, on the next offensive possession did it again. If you’re keeping track at home, that’s six points in 44 seconds for the sophomore from Dresden, Ohio. The six-point run cut the lead down to two, but it didn’t last long. The Hawkeyes continued pummeling under the basket, responding with the final five points of the quarter to go back up seven with 10 minutes remaining.
The start of the fourth quarter didn’t instill much confidence in the Buckeyes-leaning crowd. Iowa hit its first two shots of the quarter, a three-point shot by Clark and a running layup by 5-foot-7 Molly Davis over the taller Buckeye defender to increase the lead to 12 points. That forced a quick timeout by Coach McGuff with 8:49 remaining.
Out of the timeout, McMahon showed what the strategy could be to end the game, going straight at the basket, and earning a foul and a free throw in the process. It gave Ohio State a more manageable nine-point deficit.
McMahon hit another layup. Then Sheldon followed up with one of her own. It was like Coach McGuff was daring Iowa to try and defend and hear more whistles. That earned an Iowa timeout by head coach Lisa Bluder, taking time to play chess with strategy in the final minutes of the game as the Buckeyes began to mount a run.
Iowa’s response wasn’t as strong as Ohio State’s out of the timeout. McMahon, scoring six out of the next eight points of the game, put the Buckeyes within a point with 3:59 remaining. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, three starters were also at four fouls. Taylor, Thierry, and McMahon, who led Ohio State with 23 points up to that point, had to play carefully.
Continuing to slow the Hawkeyes’ defense, the Buckeyes turned the 12-point deficit into a one-point lead, but it wouldn’t last. Iowa responded hitting the next two baskets in a game that became a yo-yo of back-and-forth opportunities.
McMahon continued her game-changing play. Down three, the forward missed a layup and ripped the ball away from Martin under the basket to get a second chance shot. That shot went in and although McMahon missed a follow-up free throw, Taylor helped.
On the next offensive possession, Taylor had the ball with only 8 seconds remaining on the shot clock, feeling the pressure, the graduate senior responded, hitting a running layup to put the Buckeyes up one.
Then, on defense, Iowa missed a wide-open layup, but Stuelke had two shots at the line. Missing one, it was a tied game, and that’s how it'd stay. Sheldon took the last shot of the game, clanging off the rim on a three-attempt, sending the game to overtime.
McMahon hit the first shot of the overtime period, a minute into the five, with Iowa missing its first two attempts with the ball. Then, the Buckeyes benefited from a miss by the referees, giving Ohio State possession on a play that looked out on Thierry. From that extra possession, McMahon made it to the line, making it a three-point Ohio State lead.
Clark cut the lead to one, going solo on a layup attempt against Taylor, still playing cautiously with the next foul taking her out. Then McMahon kept attacking. The forward hit a layup and went to the line, thanks to a foul by Clark. The sophomore loved the moment and scored her 31st points of the game, making it a two-possession contest.
Responding was Clark again, hitting a three-point shot, making it a one-point game, with Sheldon hitting a midrange effort to put it back at three points. Then Mikulášiková blew the roof off the arena. With 1:14 remaining, the Slovakian hit the Buckeyes’ fourth shot in a row, a three-point shot, to put Ohio State up six.
McMahon followed up two free throws by Clark with a layup, putting Ohio State up six points. That put McMahon at 33 points, a career-high after hitting 30 last season against the USF Bulls.
In the bonus, Iowa had to send the Buckeyes to the line with 30.3 seconds remaining. Despite having the best player in the world, the Hawkeyes couldn’t come back like Ohio State, falling 100-92 to the Buckeyes in front of a sold-out crowd.
Following the game, students stormed the court to celebrate with their fellow Ohio State enrollees. It was a positive moment, except for one accident.
As Clark headed towards the visiting locker room, the guard and a fan crossed each other, with the two clipping each other to the ground. Both went to the floor, with security and Buckeyes’ guard Rikki Harris running over to help. Iowa teammates helped Clark up and ushered her off the court.
18-second mark, Clark and a fan run into each other. Both not seeing someone in front of them. pic.twitter.com/imYpFAipui— Thomas Costello (@1ThomasCostello) January 21, 2024
Clark, Coach Bluder and Coach McGuff each addressed the situation following the game, with Clark being ok after the incident.
SHOWED UP & SHOWED OUT.— Big Ten Women's Basketball (@B1Gwbball) January 21, 2024
That’s a sold out crowd at The Schott! pic.twitter.com/L6KazEdUsJ
Regardless of the outcome, it’s no hyperbole to say the Schottenstein Center was louder than it has ever been for an Ohio State women’s basketball game. The previous record, 17,525 against the Penn State Nittany Lions on Feb. 27, 2005, was beaten-handedly with the sellout crowd of the fully open Value City Arena.
The Buckeyes crowd hit 18,860, creating a new record-holder that may not be broken anytime in the near future. That is unless Clark returns for a final season.
The Buckeyes forward got early foul calls, and on made layups, turning McMahon into a player on a mission. McMahon led all Ohio State players in scoring, but when she made the baskets is what decided the outcome of Sunday’s game.
McMahon had 21 second half points, with 13 in the fourth quarter and eight in overtime. Those eight points in the final five minutes of the games was one less than the entire Hawkeyes team. Plus, the forward did all of it with four fouls.
Last season, McMahon put teams on notice in the postseason and Sunday showed everyone that the recent funk by the sophomore is over in a big way.
Entering Sunday, Iowa led the Big Ten in rebounding, grabbing 42.7 per game. At the end of overtime, the 11th best rebounding side Ohio State came away with not only the win but the rebounding margin.
Leading everyone was McMahon, grabbing 12, and two in overtime. Looking closer, Iowa did have more on the offensive end of the court, 13-9, which hurt second chance points for Ohio State, but still capitalized on Iowa misses.
After today, the Buckeyes head to Champaign, Illinois for a matchup against the Illinois Fighting Illini. Ohio State took the lone game against Illinois last season, coming back from a third-quarter 17-point deficit. Illini sit at 8-9 this season, a down year after Illinois surprised the conference last season with a 22-10 record for first-year Illini coach Shauna Green.