No. 9 Michigan Wolverines pummel No. 25 Ohio State women's basketball in Ann Arbor

Jacob Myers
The Columbus Dispatch
The Ohio State women's basketball team suffered its second conference loss of the year at No. 9 Michigan on New Year's Eve.

With the same lack of post presence that was expected to be an issue all season and a bench depleted some due to positive COVID-19 tests, the Ohio State women’s basketball team faded fast against the talented Michigan Wolverines. 

Michigan forward Naz Hillmon — the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year who scored 50 points in one game against Ohio State last season — dominated her team’s rival again with 29 points and 15 rebounds as the No. 9 Wolverines (12-1, 3-0 Big Ten) beat up the No. 25 Buckeyes (9-3, 1-2 Big Ten) in the post in a 90-71 loss for Ohio State. 

Jacy Sheldon led the Buckeyes with 26 points on 11-of-23 shooting. Taylor Mikesell scored 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting. Behind Hillmon, Michigan got a double-double from Emily Kiser (18 points, 15 rebounds) and Leigha Brown added 24 points. 

The Buckeyes were without one of its starters and emotional leaders in guard Braxtin Miller. Guard Hevynne Bristow was also ruled unavailable. Coach Kevin McGuff said a day before the game that Ohio State wouldn’t be at full strength due to COVID-19. 

“(Braxtin’s) probably our highest basketball IQ person on the team, so we really miss her leadership and communication out there,” McGuff said. “She does a great job talking and keeping everybody organized. We were a little disorganized at times in terms of executing the offense and she’s usually the one who can keep everybody on track.” 

The physicality of Michigan was just too much for the Buckeyes. The Wolverines scored 50 points in the paint and drove the Buckeyes into foul trouble all game. Harris, Mikulasikova and Beachem all fouled out, while Sheldon, Kateri Poole and Taylor Thierry ended with four fouls. 

The Buckeyes allowed 14 offensive rebounds and were outrebounded 48-27.

McGuff said Ohio State planned to switch up their post defense by fronting the post player, and the team did a good job of it in practice. But the overall execution of that on post players and guards was subpar. 

“They have a big inside presence," Mikesell said. “We gave up some easy points to start and then we got in foul trouble so we kind of forced to play zone so it kind of took us out of our game plan.”

Much like the Indiana game on Dec. 12, the Buckeyes fell behind quickly with Michigan starting the game on an 8-0 run while the Buckeyes missed their first six shots. Out of a timeout, Ohio State settled into the game and was down only 21-17, in part due to 3-pointers by Rikki Harris, Mikesell and Sheldon. 

Ohio State found some success in limiting Michigan’s outside shooting at the start of the second quarter when McGuff had his team switch to a zone defense. A triple from Mikesell at 6:42 cut Michigan’s lead to just two points before the Wolverines began to pull away. 

Brown, Kiser and Hillmon established position easily in the post and finished possession after possession as Michigan put the Buckeyes’ in foul trouble. Mikulasikova and Beachem had two fouls in the first quarter and played a combined 13 minutes in the first half dealt with foul trouble. The Wolverines went on a 9-0 run late in the quarter to take a 45-31 lead into the half. 

Brown hit a 3-pointer to cap a 7-0 run to begin the half and extend the Wolverines’ lead. But Ohio State began to make a move after trailing 63-41 with 2:48 to go in the third. The Buckeyes turned up the pressure and forced a turnover that Sheldon stole and finished to cut the deficit to 12 points with under a minute to go. 

However, 3-point specialist Maddie Nolan splashed a triple to put the Wolverines back up 20 early in the fourth. 

“In the second half it got away from us a little bit, and then it’s almost like we were waiting for something good to happen,” McGuff said. “Then we made a couple shots and all of a sudden our energy level went sky high. And as I told them, we have to impose our will on the game and we can’t wait for something good to happen to really get us going.” 

Like their only other game against a ranked team, the Buckeyes showed glimpses of what they’re trying to accomplish each possession, but Michigan was far better over 40 minutes.