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Cotie McMahon’s switch from pure scorer to do-it-all forward for Ohio State women’s basketball

How the sophomore star is breaking through the zone in new ways, benefiting everyone on the Buckeyes.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 25 Women’s - Ohio State at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The loss of a history-making three-point shooter is going to impact any team. Ohio State women’s basketball had to work through that transition this season with the graduation of the player with the second most three-point shots in a career, Taylor Mikesell.

The question over and over again was “who fills her shoes from beyond the arc?” Sophomore forward Cotie McMahon is proving that those who wanted an answer were asking the wrong question.

Last season, McMahon debuted for Ohio State, and hasn’t been left off a starting lineup since. For a season and a half, McMahon’s used speed, agility and desire to get her way around opponents in the paint. The work amassing an impressive highlight reel including spins, jumps and taking contact — all of which turning into high-scoring games and memorable performances.

Sunday against the Purdue Boilermakers had the same impact, albeit in ways that aren’t likely to show up on a Big Ten Network hype video.

In West Lafayette, Indiana, McMahon entered the fourth quarter with only five points scored to her name. Even so, the sophomore was flirting with a triple-double. It was clear evidence of the growth of McMahon’s game.

“We’ve been running our zone offense through the middle of the floor quite a bit with Cotie (McMahon),” said head coach Kevin McGuff. “And, you know, they kind of, they guarded her and she did a good job passing the ball.”

By the end of the third quarter, McMahon already had seven assists, tying a career high. McMahon ended the day with 10 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, good for her third double-double in a row, matching her overall freshman season total.

“When teams go zone, it kind of helps us more than they think it hurts us,” said McMahon. “People draw their attention towards me, which leaves Rebeka (Mikulášiková) open on the post, or just people open on the perimeter.”

Forward Rebeka Mikulášiková’s team leading 15 points featured 10 of those points initiated by a McMahon pass. It came on a day where the Buckeyes needed all they could get from the inside game, with perimeter shooting struggling.

The workload of McMahon is a stark contrast to where the sophomore was at the end of the 2023 calendar. Following a five point, one assist, game for McMahon against the Michigan Wolverines on Dec. 30, where foul trouble held her to only 17 minutes, Coach McGuff’s heralded the work McMahon’s put in during practice. It’s helped McMahon reach a new level that was on display in Sunday’s 71-68 win over Purdue.

Since the start of 2024, McMahon is close to averaging a double-double in Ohio State’s seven game winning streak, scoring 15.1 points and grabbing 8.3 rebounds per contest. In the last three games, McMahon’s grabbed a combined 36 rebounds, leading the Buckeyes in each game. Then throw in eight assists for McMahon on Sunday and the forward looks like she’s only just getting started.

McMahon’s individual growth is one of the things improving for Ohio State as the end of the Big Ten schedule approaches. Although Purdue guard Abbey Ellis found open space on Sunday, to the tune of 14 second half points coming mostly on open three-point shots, the Buckeyes half court defense is improving. The evidence of that stronger defenses in games like Thursday when Ohio State held a surging Illinois Fighting Illini to 59 points or keeping the Michigan State Spartans to 20 points fewer than its season average.

Should opponents’ defensive zone continue its focus on McMahon, and the scarlet and gray’s outside shooting finds consistency, the individual attention won’t last long. Improving team shooting puts the Buckeyes one step closer to a performance peak at the right time: The postseason.

Another byproduct of better shooting is that it opens McMahon up to not only drive and dish to teammates, but have repeat performances like her 33 point game against the then-No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes.

While Ohio State’s two games last week didn’t feature the best shooting or 100-point games, there’s a silver lining in the narrow victories. It’s the solace of knowing that no matter how defenses play McMahon, there’s going to be a positive impact when the sophomore is on the court.