Ohio State Battles Back from Slow Start to Defeat No. 14 Seed James Madison, 80-66, in First Round of NCAA Tournament

By Dan Hope on March 18, 2023 at 3:46 pm
Cotie McMahon vs. James Madison
Ohio State Dept. of Athletics

Ohio State overcame a slow start to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Buckeyes trailed for nearly the entire first half of Saturday’s first-round game against No. 14 seed James Madison, but bounced back in the second half to defeat the visiting Dukes, 80-66, and secure a victory in front of their home crowd at the Schottenstein Center.

Team 1 2 3 4 FINAL
#3 OHIO STATE 14 20 20 26 80
#14 JAMES MADISON 26 11 13 16 66

After being outscored by 16 points in the first 16 minutes, the Buckeyes finished the first half on a 15-2 run and began to seize control of the game in the third quarter before pulling away early in the fourth quarter.

Ohio State fell into a hole quickly when James Madison went on a 12-1 run to take a 20-11 lead with 2:49 to play in the first quarter. The Dukes made seven of their first 12 shots from the field and three of their first four 3-point attempts while they grabbed eight of the game’s first 11 rebounds. The visiting team built a 12-point lead by the end of the first quarter, in which James Madison scored 26 points on 50% shooting while the Buckeyes went just 4-of-14 from the field in the first 10 minutes.

Ohio State’s offensive woes continued as the Buckeyes made just two of their first 13 shots in the second quarter, allowing James Madison to build a 35-19 lead with four minutes to play before halftime. Jacy Sheldon made just two of her first nine shots from the floor while no other Buckeye scored more than three points in the game’s first 16 minutes.

Despite the slow start, which has been a recurring trend for Ohio State this season, the Buckeyes said they never lost confidence that they would ultimately win the game.

“We do need to stop putting ourselves in this position. But I mean, in our heads, we just know we can't give up, because we've been in bigger spots before,” Cotie McMahon said after the game. “So we felt like we just couldn’t give up. And we had to change something quickly or we were going home, and we definitely didn’t want to go home.”

As it was the Buckeyes’ first game in 13 days, Sheldon and Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff both said they thought the Buckeyes had to work through some early jitters before finding their groove late in the first half.

“We looked a little rusty from being off for a couple weeks, so hopefully this allows us to settle in and we'll get off to a better start on Monday (in the next game),” McGuff said.

80 POINTS 66
26-64 (40.6%) FGM-FGA (PCT.) 23-58 (39.7%)
2-17 (11.8%) 3PM-3PA (PCT.) 3-16 (18.8%)
26-34 (76.5%) FTM-FTA (PCT.) 17-26 (65.4%)

The momentum of the game flipped in the final four minutes of the first half as the Buckeyes finished the second quarter on a 15-2 run, scoring the final 12 points before halftime to make it a three-point game at the intermission. McMahon led the run for the Buckeyes, scoring eight points in the final 3:09 of the half to finish the first 20 minutes with 11 points.

Taylor Thierry tied the game by scoring the first points of the third quarter on a three-point play. The Buckeyes retook the lead, 43-42, when Eboni Walker made a pair of free throws at the 5:52 mark of the third quarter. Following a Jamia Hazell layup that briefly put JMU back in front, Ohio State went on a 9-0 run to take an eight-point lead. The Buckeyes would take a four-point lead into the fourth quarter, 54-50, after a 6-0 run by James Madison and a pair of made free throws by Sheldon.

Ohio State started the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 12-point lead. The Buckeyes would lead by double digits for the remainder of the game, building its lead to as many as 17 points before ultimately winning by 14.

McMahon led all scorers with 18 points while Sheldon scored 17 points, went a perfect 9-for-9 from the free-throw line and led all players with nine assists. Thierry (15) and Taylor Mikesell (14) also scored in double digits for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State will now play No. 6 seed North Carolina, who earned a 61-59 win over No. 11 seed St. John’s on Saturday, in the second round. Monday’s second-round game, which will also be held at the Schott, will tip off at 4 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.

Game Notes

  • Sheldon returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in the Big Ten Tournament. She replaced Rikki Harris in the starting lineup, joining Mikesell, Thierry, McMahon and Walker in the starting five.
  • Saturday’s game was the first-ever NCAA basketball tournament game played at the Schottenstein Center. Ohio State’s previous home games in the NCAA Tournament were held at St. John’s Arena.
  • Ohio State improved to 32-26 in NCAA Tournament play (29-26 excluding vacated wins) with Saturday’s win over James Madison.
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