NCAA Tournament 2022: Ohio State women have tough second-round game at No. 3 LSU
Even though they were Big Ten co-champions, the players on the Ohio State women's basketball team have felt like underdogs all season.
Now, as they prepare for their second-round game in the NCAA Tournament, the Buckeyes are truly in that role.
With their 63-56 victory Saturday over Missouri State, the No. 6 seed Buckeyes advanced to face No. 3 LSU on the Tigers' home court in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Tipoff is 8 p.m. Monday.
Both teams had to overcome late deficits to advance on Saturday, so they are aware of the upsets possible in the postseason.
"It’s March. Everybody knows seeding doesn’t matter,” LSU star guard Khayla Pointer said. “It’s about who wants it the most.”
Ohio State, LSU both faced tough first-round games
For Ohio State, Dublin Coffman grad Jacy Sheldon had 25 points and five steals to help the Buckeyes rally for their first-round win.
Sheldon, who averages 19.7 points per game, made 10 of 12 free throws. Taylor Mikesell scored 14 points for the Buckeyes (24-6), who didn’t take the lead for good until Mikesell's 3-pointer from the left corner made it 54-52 with 3:10 left.
Ohio State shot 33.9% (19 of 56) and was held 16 points below its average of 79.2 points per game. However, the Buckeyes played some feisty defense of their own, converting 22 Bears turnovers into 25 points.
“At this time of year, you’re going to have to win in different ways,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “Today was more of our defense down the stretch that gave us a chance to win. Although I will say that our kids executed some really good offense when we needed it down the stretch.”
Sheldon said the Buckeyes need to improve to beat LSU.
"We're going to get back in the gym, watch some film, and play as hard as we always do," she said. "But I think we kind of got that game under our belt, and it's been a while since we played so I think it was good to get back out there, and we'll play even harder next time we're out there."
In its first-round game Saturday, LSU (26-5) fell behind Jackson State by 10 points with less than five minutes to go. But Pointer capped a 26-point performance with a tiebreaking 3-pointer in the final minute, and the Tigers used a 19-3 run during the final 4:42 to escape with an 83-77 victory.
“I’ve said, ‘Oh my god,’ probably the past 10 minutes since the horn,” Pointer said afterward, adding that she could not help but wonder late in the game whether the night would end with her and fellow seniors in tears and taking off their jerseys for the last time.
“A lot of that’s going through your mind at that time, but you just stay confident,” Pointer said. “We just kept going at it.”
As time ran out, Hall of Fame coach Kim Mulkey, who left Baylor to oversee a remarkable turnaround for LSU, hugged Jackson State coach Tomekia Reed and appeared to tell her, “I don’t know how we won.”
Mulkey said she also told Reed that she’s a “heck of a coach and that her kids played their hearts out,” as well as, “You ain’t going to be at Jackson State long if they don’t pay you.
“And I’m not her agent. I’m not her best friend,” Mulkey added. “I just know talent.”
LSU finished second in the SEC behind South Carolina. The Tigers lost to eventual champion Kentucky in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
After finishing as co-champs of the Big Ten regular season, the Buckeyes lost to Indiana in the conference tournament semifinals.
Both teams are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018. That year, LSU visited Columbus as a No. 6 seed but fell 78-69 to 11th-seeded Central Michigan in the first round.
Ohio State was a No. 3 seed that year and hosted the first and second rounds. The Buckeyes beat George Washington 87-45 in the first round before falling to Central Michigan 95-78.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.