Ohio State uses historic comeback to beat Indiana in Big Ten Tournament, secures place in final

Colin Gay
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State guard Taylor Mikesell dribbles past Indiana's Chloe Moore-McNeil.

Ohio State wanted to flip history on Indiana in the Big Ten women's basketball tournament semifinal. 

After falling to the Hoosiers as the No. 1-seed in last season’s conference tournament semifinal, the Buckeyes, a No. 4-seed, aimed to exact revenge against the top-seeded Hoosiers on Saturday. The Buckeyes had not beaten Indiana in two regular-season matchups. 

At first, it seemed Ohio State was caught in Indiana’s buzz saw, watching the Hoosiers break free with an 18-2 first-half run and take as large as a 24-point lead. But Ohio State stormed back, cutting their deficit to four points with a 25-9 run. 

In the fourth quarter, Ohio State didn’t want to only flip recent history with Indiana, but Big Ten history, aiming to make the largest comeback ever at its conference tournament. A Rikki Harris layup with 37 seconds left put Ohio State in the history books, beating Indiana 79-75 at the Target Center in Minneapolis. 

Ohio State's 24-point comeback ties the Big Ten record for the largest in any conference game in history.

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Ohio State will take on either Iowa or Maryland in the final on Sunday. 

"That was awesome," Ohio State senior guard Jacy Sheldon, who secured the win with two free throws, said. "That was a great team win for us. Our effort in the second half was awesome. We played together, and it showed."

For Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff, this comeback win was the momentum the Buckeyes needed heading into this final stretch, roaring back against the team at the top of what he feels is the best conference in the sport.

"I think with what we faced in the conference schedule and in what we're seeing here in the Big Ten Tournament," McGuff said, "we're going to be ready, I think, to face any style or any type of team because the teams here are so good, so well coached and so organized."

Ohio State guard Rikki Harris goes to the basket around Indiana's Lilly Meister.

Trailing by seven points with 5:30 to go, Sheldon took control, scoring six straight points to bring Ohio State to within a point. Senior guard Taylor Mikesell gave Ohio State its first lead since the first basket of the first quarter. 

"They really like each other and they play for each other, McGuff said. "I think that's a real motivating factory that they don't want to let each other down."

Ohio State’s initial offensive woes were unprecedented. The Buckeyes scored only 26 points in the first half — the least of the season — with one 3-point make on 13 attempts. 

It was a run Indiana took advantage of, using a 16-0 first-half run to break free, including double-digit scoring performances by Sara Scalia and Grace Berger in the first 20 minutes. 

As a team, sophomore guard/forward Taylor Thierry said, Ohio State was not rattled by the first-half deficit, knowing that shots were going to go down for the offense in the final 20 minutes.

"We just had to trust ourselves and trust our shooters and we knew that they were going to come down, and they did," Thierry said. "We made some huge shots."

McGuff said the shots Ohio State found in the first half were "fine" and that they just were not falling in the Buckeyes' favor. But prior to the start of his team's second-half run, his message was simple.

"'There's nothing to save this for,'" McGuff remembered saying. "'We're not playing until the NCAA Tournament, which is weeks away. So everything we got, we got to show some fight.'

"If we want to truly play our best basketball down the stretch of the season, we have to fight. I don't care what the score is. I don't care what the score ends up."

Ohio State used that momentum to create offensive momentum, making five of their first 10 shots of the third quarter, including 3-pointers by Thierry, Harris and Rebeka Mikulasikova. 

In the second half, Ohio State shot 42.1% from the field, making 18 of its 19 free-throw attempts to secure the win.

Thierry finished the game with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while freshman forward Cotie McMahon followed up a 28-point performance against Michigan with 12 points and 14 rebounds Saturday. 

Ohio State guard Taylor Mikesell dribbles past Indiana's Chloe Moore-McNeil.

Mikesell was limited to 13 points, making four of her 13 shot attempts. 

Ohio State limited Indiana forward and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Mackenzie Holmes to 10 points and seven rebounds.

While the comeback win for Ohio State was historic, it's something Sheldon does not want to see happen again. But she said it is representative of what the Buckeyes can be heading into the Big Ten Tournament final.

"We had a really bad first half," Sheldon said. "But I think it just shows the grit in this group to fight back from that deficit gives everybody a lot of confidence. Obviously we don't want to put ourselves in that position again, but having that energy the whole time and knowing we can come back is very special."

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