The Ohio State Buckeyes finished February with a big lead, winning their share of the B1G regular season title. March was a different story. With cool shooting and intense competition, Ohio State had an early B1G exit before entering the NCAA Championship as the No. 6 seed. On Saturday, the Buckeyes returned to court in the first round of the championship against the Missouri State Bears of the Missouri Valley Conference.
Even with a day of poor shooting, the Buckeyes’ defensive press, back in time and big plays by Jacy Sheldon and Tanaya Beacham, succeeded in sweeping Ohio State. The Buckeyes defeated the Bears, 63-56.
After two weeks out of the competition, Saturday’s game started slow for the Buckeyes in terms of scoring, but they looked shaky in defence. It took 1:59 of the game hour before either team scored, and Ohio State senior Braxten Miller defended two early shots from the Bears.
Offensively, it was a tough start. Goalkeeper Ricky Harris and forward Rebecca Mikulashikova both missed their initial shots, but Ohio State found their first points through goalkeeper Taylor Mixel. The mid-range running shot was the eighth time this season that Michael has opened the scoring, which is usually a good omen. Scarlet & Gray had won the previous seven matches that Michael had scored first.
At 4:08 in the first quarter, Harris hit the ground hard, hitting the back of her head on secondary impact. Harris got up and did one of two free throws, but the foul was indicative of the first quarter. Missouri State superstars Abigail Jackson and Bryce Caleb both made mistakes, but Ohio State’s offense continued to struggle and couldn’t capitalize on it.
Ohio State finished the first quarter down nine points after shooting only 1 for 12 in the quarter. In the second quarter, the bad shooting isn’t quite over yet. Fortunately for Ohio, their press thwarted the Bears, and Missouri extended the lead by just three.
Ranger Gacy Sheldon and Harris put things back in hand. Sheldon went off screen and ran outside the arc to go the long way three times – her first in six matches. Then Sheldon pounced, finding Harris in the corner, and hitting her first three in three attempts.
With an induced three-pointer timeout, Missouri State hit a corner kick, but Michael added three of them. The Buckeyes’ trio of triples has put the Buckeyes back in the game, but their poor early shot still needs work to beat it. With five minutes left to the end of the quarter, the Buckeyes attack finally collided with the defense.
The Bears fell to the Buckeyes pressure and began to turn the ball on a regular basis. Missouri State lost the ball six times in the last 2:44 of the inning, and Ohio State turned those turnovers onto a meeting track with six quick-break attempts to spark 14-2 in the second half as they went to the end of the first half with a 31-26 draw. After earning 14-5 in the first quarter, the Buckeyes outperformed the opponent 26-12 in the second quarter.
Since the start of the second half, the press in Ohio has not slowed down. Missouri started the third quarter with possession, and lost it in turnover—another giveaway that earned the Bucks two points.
The Missouri State Bears have a roster full of experience. After a storm for the Buckeyes at the end of the second quarter, they calmed down in the third after the initial second-half turnover. Defensively, the Bears started to get their stops, shutting down the opportunity for Ohio State to use their press.
Outside of trips to the free throw line, the Buckeyes didn’t take a single shot off the ground in the first half of the third quarter. This allowed the bears to get back into the game. By the third quarter media deadline, Missouri State tied the game 35-35.
It took the Buckeyes 6:49 in the third quarter to score their first points outside of the charity strip. Mikulášiková got her first game points, and Sheldon followed closely behind. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, mistakes to the Bears in the first half seemed to switch sides.
Ohio State instituted a bounty for the bears, and Missouri sent the class 14 times. The Bears led 8-0 in the third inning, but then, the game captain changed from possession to possession. There were six major changes in the last 3:11 of the third quarter, but the Buckeyes went into the fourth quarter over the top. Mikulášiková scored a hat-trick to give Ohio State a goal in the 10th minute to play.
To start the fourth, it was again a cold shot that put the Buckeyes in a hole. Seven minutes from the end of the game, Ohio State missed three open shots from depth in the same possession—one of the rare times the Buckeyes snatched offensive rebounds, to no avail. Until that possession, Missouri State led Ohio State in offensive rebounds, 19-9.
After the time-out expired, striker Tanaya Beacham made one throw and one of two free throws to eliminate the Buckeyes in one throw. With 4:52 left, the Ohio State defense forced a shot-out time violation, and the Buckeyes had less than half a basketball quarter to extend their already impressive 2021-22 season.
It was Sheldon who put Scarlet & Gray back in the lead, and Michael followed suit. The Ohio State native hit her three in the game in time to raise Ohio State’s level 54-52 with two minutes left.
Both matches, bench players Beecham and Terry Taylor had an impact. Unrecognizable this season because of her attack, Thierry got to the line late and hit two free throws. Missouri State responded again with a corner kick by Sidney Wilson, keeping the game within two.
Missouri State hit the next layup, and with less than a minute left, the Buckeyes were up by two. The Buckeyes had to burn the last time they tapped after Sheldon hit a pass and Ohio State couldn’t get out of the defensive pressure. From the timeout, Sheldon took the ball at the top of the key and charged the basket. Sheldon passed the three Missouri State Defenders, and hit the field, placing Ohio State in fourth.
Then, a mid-range loss by the Bears turned into Buckeye’s basket. With the ball out of the bounds of the Missouri State ball, Beacham jumped and returned it to Sheldon, who made two free throws, finalizing a NA 63-56 win for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes have been a top 10 goal scorer all season, but for many who watched the Ohio women’s team for the first time this season, you might not have considered watching Scarlet & Gray. Ohio State hit only 7.7% of their shots in the first quarter and 25% in the second. Both droughts gave Missouri 14-5 and 8-0 to throw the Buckeyes into a hole.
Shooting was what the Buckeyes hung their hat on all season, but they haven’t found their form yet in the post-season.
Jesse Sheldon continues to lead
After an entire season of writing positive adjectives about Sheldon’s play, it’s hard to find the words to describe its significance to the Buckeyes. Sheldon led Ohio State with 25 . Points, six rebounds, five steals and five assists.
when Ohio State needed someone to break the momentum, it was Sheldon again.
A narrow victory is still a victory. The Buckeyes continue their NCAA tournament after winning, and will face the winner from Louisiana State University and Jackson State University. The Buckeyes will play either team on Monday.