Ohio State plays flat through stretches, but blows out Illinois behind Mikesell's 32
Illinois might’ve been the team that hadn’t played in over two weeks, but it was the Buckeyes who came out flat.
The Ohio State women’s basketball team struggled to finish around the basket, missed several open jumpers and was getting beat down the floor in the first quarter against an Illini team that entered with a 5-7 record. Early in the second quarter, the Buckeyes began to turn it around with some energy on defense and managed a comfortable win that was by no means a pretty one.
Taylor Mikesell scored 32 points and led Ohio State in a 90-69 win over Illinois on Thursday night at Value City Arena. Mikesell lit up the three-point line, shooting 8 for 14 from beyond the arc and 11 for 22 from the floor. Leading scorer Jacy Sheldon added 11 points and guard Rikki Harris scored 15.
Following a loss at Michigan last Friday, Ohio State (10-3, 2-2 Big Ten) has been looking for some consistency in the way it plays over 40 minutes. The defense picked up the pace after a slow opening 10 minutes, but coach Kevin McGuff is still looking for a way to get the most out of his group.
"I think it’s a maturity thing,” McGuff said. “We get a lead and it’s like, ‘OK, maybe I don’t have to play quite as hard. Maybe I can take this shot.’ But I just think it erodes your habits if you allow yourself to do that.”
The Buckeyes allowed one of the worst teams in the Big Ten to dictate the tempo early. If not for Mikesell’s three 3-pointers, Ohio State’s deficit would’ve been much worse than just 18-17. Once McGuff deployed a press, Illinois turned the ball over nine times in the second quarter and Ohio State took advantage.
The Buckeyes made 10 of 13 shots over a stretch of almost 10 minutes and ended the half leading 44-33 with quality play off the bench from Tanaya Beachem, who ended the night with 15 points.
Ohio State’s press continued to disrupt Illinois, forcing 10 turnovers in the third quarter. Sheldon, Mikesell and guard Braxtin Miller each had two of Ohio State’s eight in the quarter. With 2:33 remaining in the quarter, Harris splashed a 3-pointer off a steal by Mikesell that grew the lead to 24 and forced an Illinois timeout.
Mikesell said the time off due to cancelations and postponements has affected the team and contributed to the slow start before sharpening up defensively.
"We started to play a lot harder, started getting easy shots. We kind of just got our energy from that,” she said. “I think our biggest thing right now is keeping the constant effort.”
Starting the fourth quarter leading 77-48, the Buckeyes regressed and allowed Illinois to go on a 14-0 run. It’s those moments that McGuff wants to correct.
“I thought we had stretches where we were very good, we played hard, we played fast, we moved the ball fast and got great shots — really the whole third quarter. But the start of the fourth quarter we were bad,” McGuff said. “And we’re not going to be the team we’re capable of being unless we get closer to 40 minutes with that focus, concentration and effort.”