BASKETBALL

How sophomore Taylor Thierry became a presence offensively for Ohio State

Bailey Johnson
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State forward Taylor Thierry was a reserve last year, but this season she started the Buckeyes' first four games and was averaging  19.75 minutes a game.

Jacy Sheldon yells at Taylor Thierry every day.

Sheldon, a senior guard, who led Ohio State with an average of 19.7 points per game last season and was an honorable mention All-American, is on a mission to make her sophomore teammate more aggressive on the offensive end of the court. Thierry made 30 appearances off the bench for the Buckeyes' Big Ten title-winning team last year and was valued for her defensive effort, but her offensive contributions were limited as she averaged just 2.9 points per game.

Through the first four games of her sophomore season, Thierry has more than tripled her scoring average, sitting at 10.5 points per game. She set a new career high with 15 points in a 99-43 win over McNeese State on Sunday.

"She had a really good offseason," coach Kevin McGuff said. "I think as she gets better, she gets more confident. I still think there’s even a higher ceiling for her."

In other words, Sheldon's efforts are paying off.

"I get on her every day, as do a lot of us, because I think we see the potential there and we see some lanes that sometimes she doesn’t," Sheldon said. "Just reminding her to get in there and score a layup, because she can finish over almost anybody. ... She can be a real offensive threat too, and she will be eventually. She’s just going to continue to get better."

Thierry's finishing ability was on display from the beginning of the season, as she scored 10 points in an upset win over then-No. 5 Tennessee. The Lady Vols had a height advantage on the Buckeyes at nearly every position, but Thierry was unfazed.

Ohio State forward Taylor Thierry has averaged 10.5 points per game through the first four games of the season, up significantly from her average of 2.9 per game a year ago.

"She had some drives and finishes against Tennessee, through and over their size and athleticism, that I’m not sure anybody not named Taylor or (freshman) Cotie (McMahon) could’ve made," McGuff said last week. "... We need her athleticism. She can make plays that other people can’t. I’ve been really happy with her so far."

McGuff has been raving about Thierry's offseason work since media day in early October. Thierry agrees that she's put a concerted effort into improving her shooting and rounding out her game.

"Last year, I would say I wasn’t as confident in shooting, so I wouldn’t ever really shoot the ball unless I was wide open," Thierry said. "Just getting reps in outside of practice and getting more confidence so I can improve when it comes to games. ... I definitely have a lot more confidence now. I definitely could improve, but looking at where I was last year, and where I am now, I’m very happy and proud of myself for that."

With her improvement has come increased responsibility. Last season, Thierry averaged just over 15 minutes per game. This season, she's started all four games and is averaging 19.75 minutes.

Ohio State forward Taylor Thierry claps the hands of her teammates while taking the court the before the Buckeyes' season opener against Tennessee.

"She has a lot of talent," senior Eboni Walker said. "We just keep telling her, ‘Go ahead. Do what you gotta do.’ I’m proud that she’s finally getting out of her shell a little bit and doing what she can."

Walker also credits Sheldon with much of Thierry's growing confidence with the ball in her hands.

"Every time Taylor gets a layup, I tell Jacy that’s her assist, whether she passed to her or not," Walker said. "She gets on her. We all do that to her as well. She has the talent, she has the capability to do it. We just make sure that she can and make sure that she does."

And Walker and Sheldon are far from the only Buckeyes to gush over Thierry's growth. Any time her name is mentioned, Thierry's teammates express their joy in seeing her take on a larger role.

"We love it so much," senior Hevynne Bristow said. "We love seeing Taylor do good. We know she’s a great defender, but we want to see her be dominant on the offensive end, and that’s exactly what I think she’s doing. Great, hard-working player. Go Taylor Thierry."

bjohnson@dispatch.com

@BaileyAJohnson_

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