Ohio State women's basketball closes on 10-0 run to top Michigan State, advance to Big Ten semis

Jacob Myers
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State's Taylor Mikesell finished with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting and made 4 of 8 from 3-point range.

INDIANAPOLIS — Taylor Mikesell seemed to know it when the ball left her hand. 

The Ohio State guard, who has been one of the nation’s most prolific 3-point shooters in the NCAA this season, was hopping in the left corner as the ball rotated in the air before eventually falling to reclaim a commanding lead that had been slipping away since the second half began. 

With 4:17 remaining, Ohio State held a 64-58 edge over Michigan State, despite leading by as much as 20 points early in the second quarter. Out of the media timeout, the recipe for the Buckeyes to advance to Saturday’s semifinal was to get the ball into Mikesell’s hand. 

She hit a runner in the lane with 2:50 left to calm the team’s nerves. Then after a 3-pointer from Rikki Harris, who scored 14 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists, Jacy Sheldon drove the lane and threw a pass to Mikesell from the baseline for the triple that ended up being the dagger for the Spartans. 

The No. 1 seed Buckeyes closed on a 10-0 run and held No. 8 seed Michigan State scoreless in the final four-plus minutes to defeat the Spartans, 74-58, on Friday afternoon at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Mikesell finished with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting and made 4 of 8 from 3-point range. Sheldon led all Ohio State scorers with 19 points, and Tanaya Beacham added 15 with eight rebounds. 

The same fighting, scratching and clawing that coach Kevin McGuff said his team displayed in the final games of the regular season to claim a share of the Big Ten title was needed again. 

"We had to do it last Sunday, and we did it again in terms of our execution and generating quality shots, getting big stops and kind of fighting around the basket to get some tough rebounds,” McGuff said. “We had to do some similar things, quite frankly. ... I knew this would be a battle, so it's a really good win for us.” 

The 13th-ranked Buckeyes play No. 5 seed (14th-ranked) Indiana at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. 

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Ohio State suffocated Michigan State with its full-court press in the first quarter, forcing nine turnovers and taking a 22-8 lead. The Buckeyes also improved on the glass after getting outrebounded by 22 against Michigan State last Sunday in the regular-season finale. 

Both Harris and Beacham ripped down offensive rebounds through traffic in the first half that led to 3-pointers. Beacham kicked to Braxtin Miller in the first quarter, saying “knock it down Braxtin,” as the ball left her hand. Harris found Mikesell for a deep 3 on the wing that gave the Buckeyes a 32-12 lead with 7:33 remaining in the second quarter. 

Ohio State's Jacy Sheldon led the Buckeyes with 19 points in a 74-58 win over Michigan State.

But Michigan State found its way back. The Buckeyes were no longer winning the rebounding battle and made just 4 of 15 shots in the third quarter. The Spartans made 50% of their shots, including three triples. 

Sheldon finished a 3-point play to start the fourth quarter, but the Spartans continued to put pressure on the Buckeyes. Leading by only six with under five minutes to play, Mikesell said there was no panic. 

“I think we looked at each other in the huddle, like, we have this game in our hands. It's ours to lose,” she said. “At that point just staying composed, I guess, in that time, knowing they were going to be the ones that needed to play with a sense of urgency.” 

Down the stretch, Ohio State gave up just one offensive rebound and made four of their last five shots after missing six in a row. 

Michigan State leading scorer Nia Clouden had another difficult night against Ohio State. She scored just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting, but contributed eight assists and grabbed six rebounds.

Sheldon and Mikesell led the Buckeyes again, but it'll take performances like Beacham and Harris had to advance to Sunday's final.

"If we're going to be the team we're capable of being, we need other people to step up," McGuff said. "Rikki today and Tanaya, both of them had outstanding games. I don't think we win if they don't step up and play well."

jmyers@dispatch.com

@_jcmyers

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