In what seemed like a blink of an eye, the Ohio State women's basketball team went from being in a tie game to walloping Illinois 77-47 on Sunday before 5,143 at Value City Arena.
What gives with these up-and-down Buckeyes?
"I told the players afterward that this game was emblematic of our whole season," coach Kevin McGuff said. "We went through a lull where we seemed to be standing around and not moving the ball, and then all of a sudden ..."
The score was tied 37-37 when freshman guard Jacy Sheldon drove to her left and hit a layup at the 4:00 mark of the third quarter. The Dublin Coffman product made a three-pointer on the next possession.
Then, fellow freshman Kierstan Bell showed why she won an unprecedented three consecutive Ms. Basketball awards. She scored 11 points, including eight in a row, during a 19-0 blast that spanned 5 minutes, 35 seconds. By the final horn, that avalanche of a run had ballooned to 40-10.
"Basically, we just picked our energy up and kept it that way, even when the subs came in," said Bell, who scored a career-high 19 points off the bench. "We're capable of this every night. The only thing that can stop us is ourselves."
After Bell’s first basket of the surge, her instincts as a scorer took over. She scored 2,883 points in her career at Canton McKinley. The 6-foot-1 guard also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds in just over 19 minutes of action.
"She obviously has a lot of talent, and not only was she looking for the ball — which we like to see — her teammates continued to get it to her," McGuff said.
Bell got plenty of help during a much-needed win that kept Ohio State (11-7, 4-3) in the thick of a crowded Big Ten race.
Madison Greene of Pickerington Central contributed 11 points and her usual relentless on-ball defense, Sheldon added 10 points, and Dorka Juhasz had eight points and seven rebounds. Even little-used Kaelynn Satterfield had nine points and five rebounds in mop-up time.
With six players getting in the act, Ohio State shot 50% (11 of 22) from three-point range.
"We need longer stretches like we saw today," McGuff said. "Because of our athleticism and the depth we have, we're trying to play a little faster, and I think it played a factor today."
Said Satterfield: "I think when we play fast, it goes to our advantage. That seems to pick us up when we get it going in transition."
After a sluggish start, Ohio State's defense shined as well. Dogged by a 3-2 zone, the undersized Illini (10-8, 1-6) shot just 25% (8 of 32) in the second half. Illinois came in scoring 73.8 points per game.
"As we get to mid-January, we've found that if our rebounding and defense is good, it seems to spur everything offensively," McGuff said. "We tried to work in that zone a little today, and our post players definitely defended better."