For the first time in 30 years, Ohio State will play in the Elite Eight after the Buckeyes defeated UConn, 73-61, in the Sweet 16 on Saturday behind a dominant defensive performance and a 23-point effort from Cotie McMahon.
|#3 OHIO STATE||15||21||18||19||73|
McMahon's 23 led all players in the matchup. Ohio State also received contributions from Jacy Sheldon, who scored 17 points with five assists and two steals, while Taylor Mikesell and Taylor Thierry added nine and 11 points, respectively.
Six Ohio State players combined to collect 13 steals against UConn, but the Huskies gave the ball away plenty more times than that, however, as Connecticut finished the game with 25 total turnovers. Those extra possessions for the Buckeyes generated almost half of the team's offense in the contest.
With the win, the Buckeyes advance past the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1993 when Ohio State Hall of Famer Katie Smith, whose No. 30 hangs in the rafters at Value City Arena, helped take the program to the national title game as a freshman. Ohio State fell to Texas Tech, 84-82, in the championship.
OHIO AGAINST THE WORLD pic.twitter.com/W9ayjOSkYi— Ohio State WBB (@OhioStateWBB) March 25, 2023
This year's Buckeyes will look for similar success in the 2023 NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed in the Seattle Regional. After knocking off No. 2 seed UConn, all that stands in the way of Ohio State reaching the Final Four is Monday’s Elite Eight game against No. 1 seed Virginia Tech, which will tip off at 9 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
Here is how Ohio State's win over UConn went down:
Both teams started the contest with noticeable effort. However, UConn was the team that capitalized on its early energy. The Huskies made four of their first four shots, including 3-pointers from Azzi Fudd and Lou Lopez Senechal, and jumped out to a 10-2 lead that forced Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff to burn his first timeout at the 5:57 mark.
|23-60 (38.3%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||24-53 (45%)|
|5-17 (29.4%%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||6-23 (47%)|
|22-30 (73.3%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||7-15 (47%)|
After the brief break, Ohio State returned to the floor and converted its next attempt, a two-point basket from Eboni Walker. Rikki Harris, who entered the contest for Thierry after the timeout, collected a steal and was fouled immediately by Aaliyah Edwards. The Buckeyes failed to take advantage of that extra possession, but the team continued to wreak havoc defensively from that point on in the quarter.
In the final three minutes, Ohio State forced four UConn turnovers and saw McMahon, Mikesell and Thierry convert those chances into points. By the time the first frame ended, the Buckeyes had cut the Huskies' lead to 17-15 despite shooting 37.5% from the field and missing all five of their 3-pointers.
The Buckeyes took their first lead of the game, 18-17, at the 8:49 mark of the second quarter when a Thierry steal led to a McMahon 3-ball in transition. That basket became a catalyst for an incredibly efficient quarter for Ohio State on both ends of the floor.
Sheldon collected another steal seventeen seconds after McMahon's 3-pointer – UConn's 12th turnover and Ohio State's ninth steal in the first 12 minutes – that also caused a dead ball. Geno Auriemma used that opportunity to call his first timeout of the contest in an effort to rally his players. However, momentum still favored the Buckeyes even after the break, as Ohio State extended its run to 17-0 and its lead to 26-17 before UConn finally made its first basket of the quarter.
By the intermission, Ohio State led UConn 36-26 thanks to the team's 11 steals (and 18 UConn turnovers) and a standout first half from McMahon. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year led all players in the first 20 minutes with 18 points and added three rebounds, two assists and a steal in that span. Sheldon was the Buckeyes' next leading scorer with eight points, while Eboni Walker had six and Thierry had four.
.@OhioStateWBB's @cotiemcmahon23 1st half.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) March 25, 2023
: ESPN pic.twitter.com/K8ieep4ow5
Historically an elite third-quarter team, UConn came out with an aggressive mentality after the halftime break. The Huskies shot 8 of 13 (61.5%) from the field in the frame and frequently attacked the glass, collecting rebounds on both ends of the floor.
Still, the Buckeyes' offense was effective enough to stave off the Huskies. Thierry paced Ohio State with seven points in the frame, while Sheldon (five), Mikesell (four) and McMahon (two) combined to score 11 as part of an 18-point third quarter for the Buckeyes. Overall, Ohio State converted on 5 of 13 (38.5%) shots in the frame and made 7 of 10 attempts from the free throw line.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Mikesell nailed a 3-pointer that provided Ohio State with a 57-46 advantage. From there, the scarlet and gray never looked back. The Buckeyes kept heavy pressure in the frontcourt in the ensuing minutes, which created obvious discomfort for the Huskies' guards. After a Harris 3-ball at the 8:09 mark, Ohio State led by 16 points – its largest lead of the game – and forced Auriemma to call a timeout.
A @rik_2019 three-pointer gives @OhioStateWBB a 16-point lead over Uconn.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) March 25, 2023
: ESPN pic.twitter.com/N2iVdyTcCC
As was the case after Auriemma's timeout in the second quarter, UConn came out of stoppage with every intent to creep back into the game. But once again, Ohio State had other plans.
McGuff relied heavily on his experienced players to carry the Buckeyes to victory, as McMahon, Sheldon, Mikesell and Thierry stunned the Huskies in the upset win and kept UConn from advancing to its 17th consecutive Elite Eight and 15th straight Final Four.
- Ohio State's starters were Jacy Sheldon, Taylor Mikesell, Taylor Mikesell, Cotie McMahon and Eboni Walker. UConn's starters were Nika Muhl, Azzi Fudd, Lou Lopez Senechal, Aaliyah Edwards and Dorka Juhasz.
- Dorka Juhasz played the first three years of her college basketball career at Ohio State. She transferred to UConn after the 2020-21 season and has averaged 15.2 points and a team-best 9.9 rebounds per contest this season for the Huskies.
- Ohio State's last trip to the Elite Eight came in 1993 when Ohio State Hall of Famer Katie Smith helped take the program to the national title game as a freshman. The Buckeyes fell to Texas Tech, 84-82, in the championship as the legendary Sheryl Swoopes scored a Final Four record 47 points to lead the Red Raiders to the two-point victory.
- Between 1993 and 2023, the Huskies qualified for the NCAA Tournament each year and racked up 29 appearances in the Sweet 16, 26 in the Elite Eight, 21 in the Final Four and 12 in the national championship game, resulting in 11 titles and one national runner-up. UConn also made 16 consecutive Elite Eights and 14 consecutive Final Fours.