2023 Ohio State University
On Saturday the No. 3 seeded (25-7) Ohio State women's basketball team played their first game of the 2023 NCAA Tournament against the Sun Bet Champions in No. 14 seeded (26-7) James Madison University Dukes (JMU). Going into the game no 14 seed had ever won a game in the NCAA Tournament. As a result the Buckeyes opened the first playoff game in Value City Arena's history as a 20.5 favorite over the Dukes. This was the first game of the Seattle Regional 3 and the winner advances to take on the winner of North Carolina and St. Johns who play at 4PM ET on ESPN. The Round of 32 game will be played on March 20th in Columbus with a time that is TBD.
Jacy Sheldon returned to the starting lineup for the first time since November when she suffered an injury that left her sidelined for most of the regular season. Sheldon led the Buckeyes in scoring in the 2021-22 season and returned to her starting point guard role.
James Madison got on an early run in the first few minutes of Saturday's game in Columbus as they looked to push the tempo and make the Buckeyes uncomfortable.The Dukes started forcing a lot Buckeye turnovers and then shot the ball very wall at their own end of the court. Despite the strong run the Dukes were committing a lot of fouls near the rim which allowed Ohio State to stay close with free throws while the offense struggled to start rolling. At the halfway point of the first quarter the Buckeyes led 10-8. JMU dominated the boards on both ends of the floors getting a number of second chances on offense and limiting the Buckeyes possessions. A 18-4 run fueled the Dukes out to a big first quarter lead as they forced a lot of bad shots by the Buckeyes. At the end of the first quarter the Buckeyes trailed 26-14. It was the thirteenth time this season that Ohio State had allowed over 20 points in the first quarter.
James Madison continued to run the floor quickly to start the second quarter which didn't allow the Buckeyes to setup their full court press defense. The Buckeyes were able to score just five points in the first five minutes of the quarter as the team was shooting just 25% from the floor for the game. Both teams were being called on more than a few fouls and both teams had starters in foul trouble late in the first half. Ohio State's offense finally got a little big of momentum with under four minutes to go as Rebeka Mikulasikova and Cotie McMahon each converted three-point plays and then the Buckeyes defense forced a 10-second violation and the Buckeyes forced the score back within ten following a JMU that ballooned to 16 points. The Bucks continued to push as the half neared as the full court press put too much pressure on the Dukes and Ohio State started forcing turnovers and getting out on the fast break. With 45 seconds to go in the first half the Buckeyes were down by just six points and Cotie McMahon was heating up as she scored eight of the final twelve points of the half for Ohio State as the Buckeyes went to the half down by just three. Ohio State was now working on trying to complete their seventh double-digit comeback of the season.
Following the strong defensive performance in the second quarter by the Buckeyes, who held the Dukes to just 11 points, the Buckeyes continued to run their full court press in search of more turnovers and fast break opportunities. The Buckeyes continued to force their way to the inside and were able to tie the game in just the first two minutes of the second half. After a back-and-forth shootout that lasted almost three minutes the Buckeyes finally grabbed the lead for the first time since the five minute mark in the first quarter with six minutes to go in the third quarter. The Buckeyes continued to play aggressive as the home crowd fueled their big run and Ohio State was looking to grow their lead as they neared the fourth quarter. JMU would not be left behind however as they continued to go shot for shot with the Buckeyes. At the end of the fourth the Buckeyes led by just four points and the game went to the fourth with the score at 54-50
Ohio State hit their first shot attempt of the fourth quarter and continued on with the rhythm they had set in the last two quarters. Then the Buckeyes stomped the pedal down as they went on a 10-0 run in just the first two minutes of the quarter as they were led by Jacy Sheldon on both offense and defense. Great defense would continue to tell the story for the fourth quarter for Ohio State as JMU continued to struggle to get back into that rhythm they had in the first quarter. The Dukes fought valiantly in the final quarter of play, but Ohio State's rhythm could not be disrupted and the Buckeyes were able to hold on to a double-digit victory.
Final Score: 80-66
After Ohio State was outscored 26-14 in the first quarter the Buckeyes would outscore the James Madison Dukes 40-24 in the second and third quarters to grab the lead before the fourth. A strong fourth quarter performance from Ohio State that started with a 17-2 run sent the Buckeyes to the Round of 32 with a win over the Dukes.
Player of the Game: Cotie McMahon
The Big Ten Freshman of the Year continued her great season that featured a lot of great performances in the second half of the season. McMahon led the Buckeye offense through early struggles and continued to be a focal point of the offense well into the fourth quarter. Her two defensive blocks also proved pivotal as the Buckeyes took the momentum created by her defense to fight back into the game.
Leading Scorers: Cotie McMahon (16), Taylor Thierry (15), Jacy Sheldon (14),
Taylor Mikesell (11)
Leading Scorers:Kiki Jefferson (17), Jamia Hazell (10)