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Women's basketball: No. 11 Ohio State turns up pressure in win over Minnesota

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State Buckeyes guard Jacy Sheldon (4) is guarded by Minnesota Golden Gophers guard Alexia Smith (1) during the first quarter of Sunday's NCAA Division I Big Ten conference basketball game at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio, on February 7, 2021.

If the Ohio State women’s basketball team was ever to loosen its grip on a comfortable lead during Sunday’s 83-59 win over Minnesota, the moment arrived early in the third quarter.

The Buckeyes gave up a layup to Kadi Sissoko, a forward for the Gophers, in the opening seconds of the second half and watched their lead fall to a seven-point margin after mostly remaining ahead by double-digits since tip-off.

But a flurry of steals soon led to multiple fast-break opportunities and uncontested layups, part of a 15-0 run that allowed the 11th-ranked Buckeyes to coast to their second consecutive victory at Value City Arena.

Improving their record to 12-2 overall and 8-2 in conference, they remained near the top of the Big Ten standings behind a pair of one-loss teams in Maryland and Michigan.  

During the hot stretch in the third quarter, a majority of the 15 points came from guard Jacy Sheldon, who strung together four of the layups in transition, benefitting from a full-court press that caused a series of turnovers.

“We were very aggressive and we were able to just make them shoot tough shots,” forward Dorka Juhasz said. “And we were able to get some steals and rebounds and just throw it out. We know Jacy is always running, and that means some easy layups for us.

“I think that was really important and probably the point we turned the game over.”

Buckeyes coach Kevin McGuff said the press was implemented at halftime as they sought to hold off the Gophers, who were already whittling away at their lead late in the second quarter. They were mindful that their 39-30 halftime lead not unravel.

“We talked about how Minnesota had played well enough in the first half they were going to have some confidence, and it was going to be really important how we started the third quarter,” McGuff said, “so I just think we had a great mentality heading out of the locker room.”

While Juhasz led Ohio State with 18 points and 10 rebounds, recording her eighth double-double in 10 games this season, Sheldon had 17 points, plus four assists and three steals. Forward Aaliyah Patty was also in double-figures with 14 points.

The Buckeyes shot 45.5%, including making 34.6% of their 3-point attempts against Minnesota, which was last in the conference in points allowed (80.8) and field goal percentage (46.5%) ahead of Sunday’s game.

Still, the shooting stretch was encouraging for Ohio State which only six days earlier shot below 30% in a disappointing 69-57 loss at Northwestern. In Thursday’s 92-87 win against Iowa, they shot 47.8% to bounce back.

With the convincing win, the Buckeyes were able to empty their bench late in the second half after their last seven games had been settled by single-digits, including one in overtime against Iowa last month.

“We're trying to peak late in the year,” McGuff said, “and the more people we can get involved, they can gain some confidence, get some experience and hopefully be able to help us down the stretch.”

One reserve that was not available Sunday was forward Rebeka Mikulasikova, who was unavailable.

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman