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Ohio State women’s win over Indiana wasn’t a ‘statement victory,’ it was expected

The Buckeyes came away with its third ranked-win of the season, putting the Hoosiers in the rearview mirror.

Indiana v Ohio State Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

On Jan. 21, 2024, Ohio State women's basketball faced the then No. 2 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. After losing to Iowa twice in the 22/23 season, a packed Schottenstein Center roared, fans ran the court and the Buckeyes celebrated the national television victory with their fellow students. If that was Ohio State’s statement win, Sunday’s victory over the Indiana Hoosiers was strictly business.

Following the game, in the post-game press conference, it didn’t feel celebratory. Against Iowa, guard Jacy Sheldon and forward Cotie McMahon were visibly excited. The same two spoke with the media following Sunday’s win and the reactions weren’t the same.

The two, alongside head coach Kevin McGuff, addressed the Buckeyes’ halftime changes, putting more focus on the defensive press, and making plays difficult for Indiana forward Mackenzie Holmes.

“I think for us, our press, like Coach said, our defense leads to offense,” said Sheldon. “So, I think we kind of got going there for a while. And then like Coach said, our offense came from that.”

Indiana’s five-point lead entering halftime was the Hoosiers’ largest of the day. After 5:28 of the third quarter, Ohio State was already back in the lead, holding it until the final buzzer. That’s due in part to the 11 turnovers forced by the Buckeyes in the third quarter, resulting in nine points.

Ohio State’s calm demeanor, despite being down, shows the maturation process of a team about to lose a lot of experience with NCAA eligibility running out. Graduate senior guard Celeste Taylor defensively led the third-quarter charge. Taylor had three steals in 10 minutes on the court, compared to playing only one minute in the second quarter, due to foul trouble.

The byproduct of the defensive response was a quiet Holmes. Indiana’s forward missed her lone shot of the quarter, had no rebounds, and turned the ball over four times.

Sheldon and McMahon led offensively, scoring eight points each. Although McMahon is still an underclassman, the experience of starting every game of her NCAA career and multiple stints with Team USA’s youth side puts her into a leadership role on the Buckeyes. It made overcoming the deficit easier than some expected.

“We’ve been down in a lot of games,” said Sheldon. “We’ve been up and had to keep the lead. We have a lot of older girls, but we have a lot of younger girls, too, who haven’t been there before. And that’s something we emphasize a lot is just keeping our cool physically and mentally, and we did a good job.”

While Ohio State’s lead dwindled from 14 points early in the fourth quarter down to three points with 16 seconds left, it pales in comparison to the end of the Buckeyes’ game against Iowa.

Jan. 21, Ohio State entered the fourth quarter down 10 points. It required a full-steam-ahead approach, giving everything to overcome the deficit and secure overtime.

On Sunday, the Buckeyes didn’t need its starting five out for the entire 10 minutes, with only Taylor and Sheldon playing the entire quarter. Part of the reason was foul trouble for McMahon, but taking the forward out was a risk.

In the Buckeyes’ 11-0 run in the third quarter, McMahon scored eight of the 11 points. Despite fouling out after five minutes played in the final quarter, McMahon still had two rebounds and an assist on four fouls.

Buckeyes teams of the past two seasons might have lost that 14-point lead and the game. Sunday showed that beating a top-10 team isn’t a team-shifting moment. It’s business as usual.

It wasn’t all seriousness following the game. As a bonus for making it through the article, here’s an exchange between Coach McGuff and McMahon at the post-game press conference: