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No. 5 Ohio State women’s basketball flies high in second half, defeat Minnesota 71-47

The Buckeyes made it a game in the first half, but pulled away quickly in the second half

NCAA Womens Basketball: Ohio St. at Minnesota Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night, Ohio State women’s basketball was in the Barn, facing the Minnesota Golden Gophers for the lone matchup of the season. The Buckeyes entered the game on a nine-game winning streak, while the Gophers welcomed the visitors on a four-game losing streak, including an injury to the team’s sophomore star halfway through the streak.

With Minnesota reeling, Ohio State had another impressive third quarter, overpowering the Gophers 71-47.

The first quarter started like most Ohio State away games this season. Shooting was slow to get started. In the first quarter, the Buckeyes were struggling not only from three-point range but across the board.

An opening 10 minutes featuring a lot of rushed and challenged shooting ended with the Buckeyes shooting 26.3% overall, shooting only slightly better from beyond the arc, going 3-for-11 with forward Rebeka Mikulášiková hitting two.

Defensively, Ohio State forced turnovers early, limiting Minnesota’s offense in the process. At the end of the first quarter, the Buckeyes led 14-13. Even with the presence of 6-foot-5 center Sophie Hart leading the home team with 4 rebounds in the first quarter, outrebounding the Buckeyes 14-10.

Ohio State’s second quarter started strong, making its first two shots attempted, followed by another lull of four missed baskets. However, the shots were better than the challenged attempts of the first quarter. The Buckeyes began moving off the ball, and getting open, turning into a seven-point run.

Firing up in the quarter was guard Jacy Sheldon. The graduate senior was five of the seven points of the run, putting Ohio State up nine points. A lead that shrunk, but mainly due to lack of offense for the visitors.

The Buckeyes held the Golden Gophers to six points in the final five minutes of the half, but ended the quarter going 2-for-5 from the floor. Ohio State took quick shots, early in the shot clock, and stopped passing like it did in the middle of the quarter when it amassed its almost double-digit lead.

Still, head coach Kevin McGuff’s side took a lead into halftime, up 29-24. Leading the way for the Buckeyes was Sheldon. The guard led the team with seven points but also added four assists and three rebounds. She wasn’t the only productive player, with guard Celeste Taylor scoring four, grabbing four rebounds and two assists. Plus a five-and-five half for forward Cotie McMahon in points and rebounds.

So far in 2024, the Buckeyes come out of the halftime locker room with an intensity that teams can’t handle. It came in the form of a record-tying 39 points against the Wisconsin Badgers, flipping a deficit to a lead against the Indiana Hoosiers and making up for multiple poor second-quarter performances.

The start of the third quarter looked like the Buckeyes would add another example. After three minutes, Ohio State outscored the Gophers 7-0 to start the half, forcing a timeout by the home team. Included in the seven-point run was a steal and quarterback touchdown throw by Sheldon to a wide-open Taylor. It was the point guard’s fifth assist of the game.

By the end of the third quarter, the Buckeyes increased its five-point halftime lead to 24 points. Defensively, turnovers were helping Ohio State big time. Entering Thursday, the Golden Gophers were the third-lowest turnover-creating team in the conference, with a high of 19 turnovers in its first game of the season. At the end of the third quarter, Minnesota reached 19 turnovers.

Of the Buckeyes 22 points off turnovers, to that point, 10 points came in the third quarter. Overall, McGuff’s side outscored the home team 27-6 out of the half, putting the game away with one quarter still to play.

Even with the lead, McGuff kept four of his starters in for the first three minutes of the quarter, leaving Taylor on the court. Taylor responded. The guard hit two jumpers in a row for the Buckeyes, plus added a block on the defensive side of the ball. She was the lone offense for over two minutes, keeping the lead at 24 points, taking away any inkling that the Gophers could mount a comeback.

Also, despite the size difference, and Minnesota’s rebounding margin sitting at +5.2, compared to -.8 for Ohio State, didn't show on Thursday. With four minutes remaining, the Buckeyes were hanging in with the Gophers in the rebounding department. Ohio State won the battle of the boards 33-32, a feat considering the size difference and rebounding efficiency entering Thursday.

The only thing standing between the scarlet and gray and its win was the clock. Ohio State held on to win 71-47.

Scoring-wise, four starters hit double-figures on the day but Taylor’s two final shots put her ahead of everyone on the Buckeyes in scoring. Behind Taylor’s 14 points was 13 for McMahon and 12 for Sheldon. McMahon led the Buckeyes in rebounding with nine, one shy of her fifth double-double of the season.

20-Win Season

For the eighth time in 11 seasons, Coach McGuff’s Buckeyes hit the 20-win mark. It's an accomplishment showing the consistency of the program, even during times when the style of recruiting’s changed, the introduction of the transfer portal and recovering from sanctions.

Finding Teammates

Ohio State’s 23 assists aren’t a team high for the season, sitting second behind two 24-assist games, but it came when the Buckeyes needed to find the offense to pull away. In the second half, the scarlet and gray had 14 assists, with forward Eboni Walker leading the team with four off the bench.

While the rebounding margin was slightly in the Buckeyes’ favor, Ohio State had 23 assists to nine for the Golden Gophers.

What’s Next

The Buckeyes have two games remaining before an eight-day break between opponents. Up first are the Michigan State Spartans, in East Lansing. On Jan. 14, Ohio State beat Sparty 70-65 in the Schottenstein Center.

Before the Scarlet and Gray tipped off, Michigan State took the Indiana Hoosiers to the brink, leading through most of the game, before falling in the final six minutes.