Jacy Sheldon's 25 points lead Ohio State women to 63-56 NCAA win over Missouri State

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State's Jacy Sheldon battles Missouri State's Mariah White for the ball on Saturday.

The Ohio State women’s basketball team endured lengthy shooting droughts in its first NCAA tournament game in four years.

Missouri State outrebounded the Buckeyes by 18.

Yet Ohio State, behind 25 points from Dublin Coffman grad Jacy Sheldon, was able to prevail over the Bears 63-56 in a first-round game in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Ohio State's Jacy Sheldon scores against Missouri State on Saturday.

The sixth-seeded Buckeyes (24-6) will play host LSU at 8 p.m. Monday.

"I'm really happy for our players because most of the team had not been able to participate in the NCAA Tournament," OSU coach Kevin McGuff said. "I'm really happy for them to get a chance to experience this in general. But then to get a win and be able to move on to the second round is really special."

Missouri State (25-8) had to defeat Florida State in a First Four game to advance to play Ohio State, and the Buckeyes looked jittery at the start. The game was played at 11th-seeded Missouri State’s pace. The Bears allow fewer than 54 points per game. The Buckeyes, who last played two weeks ago, score nearly 80. 

Ohio State's Braxtin Miller shoots against Missouri State's Ifunanya Nwachukwu on Saturday.

“Credit them,” Sheldon said. “They’re a great defensive team. It came down to us playing hard as well. We stuck together and that’s what won us the game.”

Ohio State trailed 50-46 after missing its first six shots of the fourth quarter. A layup by Sheldon gave Ohio State a 51-50 lead with just under 4 minutes left. Taylor Mikesell hit a 3-pointer for a 54-52 advantage a minute later, and the Buckeyes maintained the lead the rest of the way.

Sheldon made a layup with 30 seconds left and two free throws with 15 seconds left to seal the win. Mikesell finished with 14 points. Sheldon also had six rebounds, five steals and five assists.

Ohio State's Jacy Sheldon scores against Missouri State on Saturday.

Ohio State hadn’t played in an NCAA game since 2018. The Big Ten co-champions missed 17 of their first 19 shots and were outmuscled on the boards. Missouri State outrebounded the Buckeyes 51-33, but OSU forced 22 turnovers.

The Bears, from the Missouri Valley Conference, took a 14-5 lead after one quarter – OSU’s lowest-scoring quarter of the season – and built the advantage to 20-8.

Ohio State's Rebeka Mikulasikova (right) celebrates with Tanaya Beacham after the Buckeyes defeated Missouri State on Saturday.

"They had a game under their belt and we hadn't played in a while," Sheldon said. "So I think we were really excited to get out there, and maybe the nerves showed. But I think once we settled down, we started playing together as a team."

The Buckeyes finally found their shooting stroke when Sheldon, Rikki Harris and Mikesell hit consecutive 3-pointers.

Ohio State's Tanaya Beacham drives to the basket against Missouri State on Saturday.

Ohio State’s press sustained the momentum. Sheldon and Braxtin Miller forced numerous steals that OSU converted into layups as the Buckeyes used a 23-6 run to take a 31-26 halftime lead.

"Their defense was very good to start and really was good throughout the game," McGuff said. "They kind of put us back on our heels. I didn't think we reacted well to it until we got to the second quarter and we turned up the full-court press and were able to get some easy baskets in transition. I think that helped settle us down."

But the shooting woes resurfaced at the start of both the third and fourth quarters. The Buckeyes missed their first seven shots after halftime to allow Missouri State to regain the lead. The teams traded the lead before Rebeka Mikulasikova swished a 3-pointer at the end of the period to give OSU a 44-43 lead.

Ohio State's Rikki Harris shoots against Missouri State's Abigayle Jackson on Saturday.

The Buckeyes then took control in the fourth quarter, even if it was tenuous until the final seconds.

“It's awesome to play in this tournament,” Sheldon said. “It's the best time of year and we haven't been here. We're making the most of it, and we're excited for the next game.”

Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at or on Twitter @brdispatch.