The Ohio State women’s basketball team ended its historic season after falling to No. 2 Texas 66-63 in the Spokane area of the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament.
Although the sixth-seeded Buckeyes (25-7, 14-4 Big Ten) couldn’t complete the comeback against the Longhorns (29-6, 13-5 Big 12), junior guard Jacy Sheldon said that this season was memorable.
“It was a really fun season,” Sheldon said. “I think every single person on this team contributed to what we were able to do. I think despite everything we’ve been through, we’ve proven that we’re one of the best teams in the country.
Ohio State started the game at Spokane Arena with its momentum from Monday night’s victory over No. 3 LSU. Texas was first in the board to take an early lead, but the Buckeyes responded with an 11-0 run late in the first quarter before the Longhorns hit a last-second half-range shot.
The Buckeyes’ elite defense continued as they accounted for five of Texas’ turnovers. Freshman guard Rori Harmon found herself on the hook for the Longhorns with two fouls in the first quarter, heading to the bench for the rest of the first half.
Texas went 7-0 to start the second quarter, jumping ahead 23-20. Both teams faced a crisis in the second quarter with the Longhorns enduring a nearly four-minute drought accompanied by a nearly five-minute drought for the Buckeyes to end the half.
The Longhorns took the lead at halftime with one-and-one for senior guard Joanne Allen-Taylor, 32-30.
Coming out of halftime, both teams ramped up their physicality and intensity of play. Three Buckeyes finished the third quarter in double digits, including senior guard Taylor Mikesell, senior guard Braxtin Miller and Sheldon, but that wasn’t enough as Texas was leading 50-45 going into the last frame.
Texas inflated its lead to 10 points in the fourth quarter, but the Buckeyes responded immediately with key baskets from Sheldon, continuing a 6-0 run on its own. Sheldon said those buckets played a major role in the Buckeyes’ ability to stay in the game.
“It was a big momentum shift for us,” Sheldon said. “I think we played as hard as we could the whole game and we had a few plays that we liked.”
The Buckeyes continued to grind their way into the fourth quarter to make it a one-point game with a pull-up from graduate forward Tanaya Beacham. However, Ohio State was unable to capitalize, allowing the Longhorns to advance to the Elite Eight.
Although the Buckeyes didn’t get the result they wanted, head coach Kevin McGuff said he’s proud of how far his team has come this season and is excited about the future of the game. program.
“I’m really incredibly proud of our kids and our fight and really, probably the biggest thing, where we were in November to where we’re done now,” McGuff said. “We were a very different team and that’s down to their competitive nature, their commitment to improvement and the championship leader we have with our upper classes.”
Sheldon and Mikesell were named regional finalists for the WBCA Coaches All-America Team. Mikesell and Sheldon have made up more than 48% of Ohio State’s offense this season.
Mikesell is one of five finalists for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award – which is given to college basketball’s top shooting guard – and is known for her 3-point effectiveness. Mikesell finished the year second in the nation for his 3-point efficiency by an astonishing 47% from beyond the arc.
Mikesell, a native of Massillon, Ohio, returned to her home state to play for the Buckeyes after spending her previous three seasons with Maryland and Oregon. Even though the Buckeyes fell through, Mikesell said the move home was the best decision she made and she’s still unsure what the future holds.
“I would say it’s probably the best decision I’ve made to come here,” Mikesell said. “If we had faced them in November we might have lost by 20. That’s just the honest truth. But I think how much we’ve grown and how close I’ve gotten to my teammates, obviously he’ll take the next two weeks to decide, but you know, it’s the best decision I’ve made to come here.