Ohio State is heading to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row.
The Buckeyes secured their place in the second weekend of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament by defeating No. 6 seed North Carolina, 71-69, in a tight second-round game Monday afternoon at the Schottenstein Center.
North Carolina forced Ohio State to battle for four quarters as the Buckeyes nearly blew a 12-point fourth-quarter lead, but a game-winning basket by Jacy Sheldon with 1.8 seconds left to play propelled the home team to a two-point win.
Taylor Mikesell (17), Sheldon (16), Eboni Walker (15) and Cotie McMahon (14) all scored in double figures to lead the Buckeyes to victory.
|#3 OHIO STATE||16||17||18||20||71|
|#6 NORTH CAROLINA||14||14||18||23||69|
After starting slow in each of its previous three games, Ohio State got off to a stronger start against North Carolina as Mikesell and Sheldon combined to make three 3-pointers before the first media timeout while UNC made just one of its first eight shots as the Buckeyes took an early 11-2 lead.
North Carolina heated up while Ohio State cooled down in the second half of the first quarter as the Tar Heels went on an 8-0 run to cut the lead down to one point. The Tar Heels followed up their 1-for-8 start by making five straight field goals – three of which were made by Deja Kelly – and Ohio State finished the first quarter with only a two-point edge, 16-14.
The Buckeyes started the second quarter in similar fashion to the first quarter, with Walker, McMahon and Taylor Thierry combining to score the first six points of the period, all off of Tar Heel turnovers. Overall, Ohio State scored 11 of the second quarter’s first 16 points, including Mikesell’s third 3-pointer of the half, to take a 27-19 lead with 4:42 to play before halftime.
|OHIO STATE||STAT||NORTH CAROLINA|
|25-50 (50%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||27-60 (45%)|
|5-15 (33.3%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||5-15 (33.3%)|
|16-23 (69.6%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||10-12 (83.3%)|
Ohio State made only one more shot from the field for the remainder of the second quarter, but still maintained a lead of at least five for the rest of the first half to take a 33-28 lead into the intermission.
The Buckeyes took a double-digit lead less than three minutes into the second half as they scored eight of the first 11 points to start the third quarter. After that, however, Ohio State went more than six minutes without making a field goal, allowing North Carolina to go on a 14-5 run and cut the lead down to one. The Buckeyes would take a 51-46 lead into the fourth quarter after Sheldon and Mikesell ended the drought with a pair of field goals – with Mikesell’s coming on a three-point play – in the final minute of the third quarter.
Ohio State got off to a strong start once again in the fourth quarter, scoring the first six points of the final period to retake a double-digit lead. North Carolina responded once again, scoring four quick points to cut the Buckeyes’ lead back to seven. The Buckeyes responded back with five quick points of their own – including Mikesell’s fourth three of the day – to extend the lead back to 12 points, but UNC scored the next nine points from there to make it a three-point game. After a pair of made free throws by Walker, North Carolina’s Kennedy Todd-Williams responded by scoring back-to-back layups to make it a one-point game.
With 2:09 left to play in the game, UNC took its first lead of the entire game, 67-66, on a Paulina Paris layup. Sheldon put the Buckeyes back in front by one with a layup with 1:07 to play. A free throw by Sheldon on Ohio State’s next possession gave the Buckeyes a two-point advantage, and North Carolina’s Teonni Key was called for an offensive foul on its subsequent possession. But an errant pass down the court by Mikesell over the hands of Rikki Harris gave the ball back to the Tar Heels with 16.3 seconds to play. A jumper by Kelly tied the game, 69-69, with 9.8 seconds left on the clock.
Sheldon made the game-winning bucket in the paint with 1.8 seconds to play to give the Buckeyes the nail-biting victory.
With its place in the Sweet 16 now secured, Ohio State will now prepare to head to Seattle, where it will face No. 2 seed UConn on Saturday. The Buckeyes’ third-round game against the Huskies will tip off at 4 p.m. and will be televised on ABC.
Beating UConn won’t be an easy task, as the Huskies have made 14 consecutive Final Fours. It’s a challenge the Buckeyes plan to embrace, though.
“I'm excited,” McMahon said after Monday’s game. “I want to play UConn so bad.”
- Monday’s game was the second time an NCAA Tournament game between Ohio State and North Carolina ended with a game-winner in the final two seconds, making them the first pair of teams to both beat each other with a game-winner in the final two seconds. North Carolina’s Jamie Cherry knocked off Ohio State in the second round of the 2015 tournament with a game-winner with 0.6 seconds remaining.
- Ryan Day and Gene Smith both visited Ohio State’s locker room after the game to congratulate the Buckeyes on the win.
- The Buckeyes used the same starting lineup against North Carolina as they did in their first-round NCAA Tournament game against James Madison: Sheldon, Mikesell, Thierry, McMahon and Walker.
- Two North Carolina starters, Deja Kelly and Eva Hodgson, suffered injuries in the fourth quarter. Kelly had to be helped back to the locker room with what appeared to be a knee injury, but ended up being able to return to the game later in the fourth quarter.
- Ohio State improved to 33-26 all-time in NCAA Tournament play (30-26 excluding vacated wins) with Monday’s win over North Carolina.
- Next week’s trip to the Sweet 16 will be the 13th ever for Ohio State women’s basketball. The Buckeyes are 3-9 all-time in the Sweet 16 with losses in each of their last six trips.