Ohio State women show poise in knocking off another Big Ten power
Kevin McGuff challenged his Ohio State women's basketball team to act with maturity after a win last week against previously unbeaten Michigan set up a showdown for the top spot in the Big Ten against No. 7 Maryland on Monday night.
Never trailing by more than five points and holding the lead for most of the night, the No. 14 Buckeyes ended Maryland's 24-game Big Ten winning streak with a program-defining 88-86 win at Value City Arena.
The Terrapins (11-2, 7-1) did not makes things easy, however, and when they made a run to open the fourth quarter, McGuff relied on his trio of Braxtin Miller, Madison Greene and Jacy Sheldon.
Trailing 67-62 after Maryland started the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run, Sheldon and Miller combined to score all of Ohio State's points in a 13-2 run that gave the Buckeyes (9-1, 5-1) a lead the Terrapins couldn't overcome.
"We need them in every game and they showed up tonight," Greene said of her teammates. Greene led the Buckeyes with 24 points, Sheldon added 21 and Miller 18.
Ohio State led by as much as 11 with 1:47 remaining before the Terrapins began to make the Buckeyes sweat again. Terrapins guard Katie Benzan made her seventh three-point basket of the night with six seconds remaining to cut OSU's lead to 86-83, but Greene made two free throws to ice the game.
Maryland guard Ashley Owusu, who finished with a game-high 33 points, made a three-pointer with a second left to account for the final margin.
With back-to-back wins over the last two teams unbeaten in the conference in Michigan and Maryland, the Buckeyes are in a four-way tie for first place with those two teams and Indiana — their opponent on Thursday.
"I think our competitive character is as good as it's been probably since I've been here,” McGuff said. “These kids really fight, scratch, claw and play for each other. You saw that now the last couple games, for sure. That's how you beat a team as good as Maryland."
Miller was challenged all night with guarding Owusu, but the senior came through on the offensive end during the biggest offensive stretch of the night.
After Sheldon scored seven straight points to give the Buckeyes a 69-67 lead, Owusu drove on Miller and converted a step-back jumper to tie the score. Miller motioned to the official indicated Owusu had pushed off, and Owusu began chattering at Miller.
That ignited something inside Miller, who hit back-to-back three-pointers to put Ohio State on track to its biggest win since winning the conference tournament title against Maryland in 2018.
“You just can't let that take you out of your game,” Miller said. “For me, I didn't really have much to say back, just play hard, go at them and try to help the team in any way I needed to."
Greene paced the Ohio State offense and kept Maryland off-balanced with five steals, most of which came early in the game and showed that Ohio State would be in the fight to the end.
Greene, Miller and Sheldon have set the tone for Ohio State's surge. Without starting forward Aaliyah Patty, the Buckeyes responded to their first loss of the season, Jan. 16 at Nebraska, with a sense of maturity that will have to continue in one of the country's toughest conferences.
"As I told them in the locker room afterward, celebrate the win, enjoy it ... but then tomorrow, you got to turn the page," McGuff said. "Indiana's playing great basketball. ... We know that'll be a big challenge so we've got to make sure that we really stay with our preparation day to day so it can show up in these games."