Another Sunday, another big game for Ohio State women’s basketball. While this weekend closing game didn’t feature a superstar from Iowa, it pit two complete teams against each other in a top 10 matchup.
The No. 8 Buckeyes defeated the No. 10 Indiana Hoosiers 74-69, in a close fourth quarter. It increases Ohio State’s winning streak to nine games, and keeps pace with the Iowa Hawkeyes at the top of the Big Ten standings.
Entering Sunday, the matchup to watch was Indiana forward Mackenzie Holmes and how the Buckeyes could match up. From the jump, the answer was: Not well. Holmes got going early for the Hoosiers, scoring the first two baskets of the game, including a free throw with the second layup ending with a foul from forward Rebeka Mikulášiková.
Holmes scored the first seven points for the Hoosiers, with the Buckeyes hitting two threes, out of five attempted, halfway through the first quarter. Indiana excelled at stopping anything from getting into the paint, with Ohio State struggling to adjust out of the gate.
Eventually, Holmes quieted and the turnovers picked up for the Buckeyes’ press. In the first quarter, head coach Kevin McGuff’s side forced six turnovers, scoring seven points off those turnovers. Also, the defense didn’t let guard Sara Scalia get open looks from three-point range. Scalia took two of the Hoosiers three attempts from beyond the arc, with Indiana missing all three.
Inversely, the Buckeyes three-point shooting improved. Ohio State shot 57.1% to finish off the quarter, going 4-for-7 overall. It gave the home side an 18-11 lead after 10 minutes of play.
Scalia responded quickly in the second quarter. The graduate senior scored the first seven points for the Hoosiers, trimming Ohio State’s lead to two points in 1:36 of the quarter. Then a 10-second swing put the momentum back in the Buckeyes’ favor.
At half court, Scalia bobbled the ball, with forward Cotie McMahon grabbing the loose ball and finding guard Rikki Harris for a layup. Immediately on the IU inbound, McMahon stole the ball and hit a layup, plus a blocking foul against guard Chloe Moore-McNeil. Hoosiers head coach Teri Moren was visibly upset at the call and opting to use a timeout to calm down the Buckeyes.
Ohio State did relax a bit, putting the Hoosiers firmly in the game. After making seven straight shots from the first to the second quarter, the scarlet and gray went 4-for-10. At the same time, Indiana scored 12 of the next 16 points, earning the visitor’s first lead of the second quarter.
Things didn’t get much better for the Buckeyes. After a three-point shot by guard/forward Taylor Thierry, Ohio State didn’t score again for the remaining 4:09 of the half. That, plus foul trouble putting the visitors in the bonus, gave Indiana a seven-point run to end the quarter.
The seven point lead of McGuff’s side at the end of the first quarter turned into a five-point Hoosiers advantage heading into halftime. In the second, Ohio State shot 37.5%, going 6-for-16 from the floor.
Ohio State cut the five-point deficit down in the first minute and eight seconds of the second half. Making the second half resemble the start of the first half with both teams playing each other strong and taking turns making baskets.
It also resembled parts of the end of the first quarter, where the Buckeyes pulled away. Ohio State went on an 11-point scoring run, creating a 14-point swing from the start of the start of the half, going up eight points on the Hoosiers.
Despite picking up a third foul in that run, McMahon stayed on the court and rewarded McGuff’s coaching decision. The sophomore was responsible for eight of the 11 points. By the end of the third quarter, Ohio State was up eight points. While the offense was needed, a quiet strength of the 10 minutes was how the Buckeyes kept Holmes from impacting the game.
In seven third quarter minutes, Holmes didn’t score a point or grab a rebound for Indiana. However, the graduate senior did give the ball away four times and pick up two fouls. Alongside point guard Moore-McNeil, the Hoosiers had two players with three fouls entering the fourth quarter.
By the start of the final quarter, Indiana already had 21 turnovers in the game, three more than its single game high entering Sunday’s contest. Ohio State had 21 points off those turnovers before the beginning of the fourth, with Ohio State up 55-47.
To start the fourth quarter, both coaches had a difficult decision to make. Both Holmes and McMahon grabbed their fourth fouls in consecutive possessions. Coach Moren of Indiana kept Holmes in, with the Hoosiers down 14. Coach McGuff sent McMahon to the bench, leading in points, rebounds and assists for Ohio State at that point with 20, seven and five.
With McMahon on the bench, the Hoosiers lead shrunk to eight points. The Buckeyes had 4:06 remaining to hold onto the lead and defeat Indiana in the regular season for the first time since Jan 28, 2021.
Out of a media timeout, McMahon was back in, with McGuff opting to go with the sophomore until the final buzzer or final foul whistle. Ohio State responded first. Guard Celeste Taylor got it going with a block on Hoosiers’ Moore-McNeil, followed by a three-point shot by guard/forward Thierry.
For the final 1:45 of the game, it would be without McMahon, who fouled out with Ohio State up eight points. That’s when IU guard Yarden Garzon started connecting.
Garzon began the fourth quarter hitting two three-point shots. That trimmed Ohio State’s lead down from eight to four points with 28.8 seconds remaining. Plus, any fouls committed by the Buckeyes would send the Hoosiers to the line, with the Buckeyes still not in the bonus.
Ohio State called a timeout and on the inbound following its conclusion, Sheldon missed a layup, but got the rebound. The guard trimmed nine seconds off the clock, and hit two free throws to put Ohio State up six points.
Indiana threw the ball into play and Scalia, who had 22 points until that moment, was fouled on a three-point attempt. The graduate senior hit all three to but Ohio State’s lead down to three.
Even so, the Buckeyes being in the bonus gave chances to score. After Scalia missed a three-point shot, landing in the hands of guard Rikki Harris, Ohio State hit the final free throws, courtesy of Sheldon, winning 74-69.
Second Half Sheldon
The first half of Sunday’s game featured strong defense against Indiana’s Scalia. Part of that was Buckeyes’ Sheldon. Offensively though, the guard had a quiet start to the game. That changed in the second half.
Sheldon led Ohio State with 20 points in the second half, with six coming from the free throw line and going 3-for-4 from the stripe in the final quarter. The 25-point game gives her 1,846 on her career with seven regular season games remaining to hit 2,000.
Fouls Fouls Fouls
Entering the second half, three of the five Buckeyes’ starters had two fouls apiece: guards Sheldon, Taylor and McMahon. Of the three, Taylor played the least in the first half, only logging 10 of the 20 minutes (only one in the second quarter), compared to 16 and 18 from McMahon and Sheldon respectively.
The ever-changing lineup gave Indiana the offensive advantage that required the Buckeyes to play from behind in the second half.
Outside of McMahon fouling out, the Buckeyes were able to keep most of the starting group on the floor to close the game out.
Ohio State is off until Thursday, when it starts a two-game road trip. It starts against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Minnesota’s surprised teams this season, until the unfortunate injury to sophomore guard Mara Braun. The Gophers are on a three-game losing streak, and travel to East Lansing Monday to face the Michigan State Spartans. Thursday is the lone matchup between the Golden Gophers and Buckeyes in the 23/24 regular season.
After that, the Buckeyes are in East Lansing themselves, facing the Spartans for the second time this season. In the first matchup, Ohio State won 70-65 in a game dominated by defense.