Ohio State 82, Penn State 69 | No. 16 Buckeyes return from pause with first Big Ten win

Jacob Myers
Buckeye Xtra
The Ohio State University athletic department logo, 2017. [provided by OSU]

Nearly a month since its last game, after a COVID-19 outbreak forced the team to endure multiple weeks of dormancy and four games that were postponed or canceled, the Ohio State women’s basketball team continued its season where it left off — without a blemish. 

With three players still listed as “unavailable” following the program’s decision to pause all team activity, the No. 16 Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) held a double-digit advantage since the late stages of the first quarter and never led by less than seven en route to a 82-69 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions (3-4, 0-3 Big Ten). 

"I was really proud of our effort,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “I thought we played really hard and obviously it's been real choppy here the last three weeks, and we could've used that as an excuse, but our kids came out, I thought they played extremely hard." 

An efficient first half subsided to a slower, inconsistent second half that was to be expected from a team which spent 25 days between games. After shooting 9-for-16 in each of the first two quarters, Ohio State struggled defensively and made unnecessary turnovers that allowed Penn State to hang around. 

Leading 67-55, Ohio State allowed an 8-2 run to begin the fourth quarter that put the Buckeyes in jeopardy of blowing what was once a 20-point. But over the next two minutes, contributions from Madison Greene, Gabby Hutcherson and Braxtin Miller expanded the lead to 15. 

With 1:20 remaining and leading by 11, sophomore guard Jacy Sheldon put the game on ice with a layup plus the foul. 

Greene led the way with 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Sheldon finished with 21 points, 13 of which came in the second half. 

While the team was shut down for a few days, the team watched as Ohio State self-imposed a one-year postseason ban on the program due to NCAA violations. There won’t be any conference tournament or NCAA tournament at the end of the season for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes gave a proper response by jumping out to a double-digit lead less than 10 minutes into the game. 

"It felt great to get out there with my teammates,” Greene said. “I just feel like we had a really great game tonight. It feels really good after not playing for a couple weeks. I'm just excited to continue to play if we can. I'm ready.” 

Leading scorer and rebounder Dorka Juhasz, Rebeka Mikulasikova and Rikki Harris were not available for the game. Ohio State does not disclose the reason why players are out in order to protect private health information. 

McGuff said he wasn’t sure when they might return to practice, noting that they're all on different timelines for return. 

Dec. 28 was Ohio State’s first day back at full practice, McGuff said, but the Buckeyes didn’t have everyone back at the same time. Getting out to a 21-point lead late in the second quarter then needing a few key possessions in the final quarter was a sign of fatigue stemming from extended time off. 

Ohio State shot just 34.2% in the second half compared to 56.3% in the first 20 minutes. 

“I think we got to make a little bit of progress with our mental effort,” McGuff said. “When we got physically fatigued, we made a lot of mental errors. Just given the nature of how choppy this is going to be this year, we need to make some strides there.”