Ohio State’s deepest NCAA Tournament run in 30 years came to an end in the Elite Eight.
The Buckeyes came up one win short of earning a berth in the Final Four as they lost to No. 1 seed Virginia Tech, 84-74, in the regional finals in Seattle on Monday night.
Taylor Mikesell scored 25 points for the Buckeyes with seven made 3-pointers while Jacy Sheldon added 19 and Cotie McMahon added 18, but a poor overall offensive showing in the second half doomed Ohio State against the top-seeded Hokies.
“Give Virginia Tech credit, I thought they were outstanding tonight,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said after the loss. “They were a little bit better than we were tonight and they made some huge plays. And disappointed for our kids, obviously. We wanted to advance and play in the next game, but we ran into a really good team today and we'll learn some lessons from this and we'll be back.”
|#3 OHIO STATE||25||20||10||19||74|
|#1 VIRGINIA TECH||22||26||15||21||84|
Both teams got out to a hot start offensively as Virginia Tech made its first seven shots in a row from the field – including three 3-pointers – while Ohio State made eight of its first 11 shots including a trio of threes from Mikesell. The Hokies cooled off for the rest of the first quarter, making just one of their final nine shots in the opening period, allowing the Buckeyes to end the quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 25-22 lead.
Ohio State’s offense remained hot in the second quarter, as the Buckeyes finished the first half with 18 made shots on 28 attempts (64.3%) including five made threes by Mikesell, who led all scorers with 19 points in the first half. McMahon and Sheldon also scored 10 points each for the Buckeyes in the first 20 minutes. Yet Virginia Tech took a 48-45 lead into halftime as Cayla King (12), Taylor Soule (11) and Elizabeth Kitley (10) all scored in first-half double figures for the Hokies, who shot 55% from the floor in the first half (16-of-29) and made all 10 of their free throw attempts before the break.
Both offenses cooled off significantly in the third quarter as Ohio State made just four of its first 15 shots while Virginia Tech made just five of its 13 shots in the period. Virginia Tech took an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter, however, after Georgia Amoore – who scored seven of the Hokies’ 15 points in the quarter – made a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the quarter to give the Hokies a 63-55 lead.
|OHIO STATE||STAT||VIRGINIA TECH|
|26-57 (45.6%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||26-54 (48.1%)|
|7-20 (35%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||8-26 (30.8%)|
|15-17 (88.2%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||24-28 (85.7%)|
Ohio State continued to struggle offensively in the fourth quarter, making just one of its first six shots of the period before Mikesell made her sixth three of the night. While the Buckeyes never allowed the Hokies to put the game completely out of reach, they also never made the sustained run they needed to eliminate a Virginia Tech lead that ballooned to 13 points with less than five minutes left to play before the Hokies ultimately won by 10.
For the second half as a whole, Ohio State made just eight of its 29 shots from the field to finish the game with a field goal percentage of just 45.6% despite its hot start. The Buckeyes were better defensively in the second half, limiting Virginia Tech to just 10-of-25 shooting in the final two quarters, but they simply didn’t make enough shots down the stretch to win the game.
“We picked our defense up there in the second half and they did too,” Sheldon said. “We got the stops we wanted. We didn't make the most of them on offense. We didn't execute the way we wanted to. So props to them. They played a great game.”
Kitley scored 25 points while Amoore scored 24 to lead the Hokies to victory. On a night where the Buckeyes used their full-court press only sparingly, the Hokies turned the ball over just 13 times after Ohio State forced UConn into 25 turnovers in its Sweet 16 win.
After putting so much effort into its 73-61 win over UConn two days before, McGuff felt Ohio State was not able to play with the same energy on Monday, which was why the Buckeyes abandoned the press that had been so successful for them against the Huskies.
“We had put so much energy into Saturday's game and we didn't have quite the same energy in the press, and when you don't have it, it's tough because you can really get beat up on the back end and give up easy baskets,” McGuff said.
While McGuff didn’t think the Buckeyes were at their best on Monday, he felt the final outcome had just as much to do with how well the Hokies played.
“We ran into a really good team tonight. Virginia Tech played great and they deserved to win,” McGuff said. “We had been so on point on Saturday with our execution of what we were trying to accomplish and we just, we missed on some opportunities, and Virginia Tech made us pay every single time.”
Despite Monday night’s loss, Ohio State can hold its heads high after one of the best seasons in program history, as the Buckeyes made the Elite Eight for just the fourth time ever and finish the year with a 28-8 record. The Buckeyes’ 28 wins included nine wins over ranked opponents, highlighted by the win over UConn, in which Ohio State ended the Huskies’ streak of making 16 straight Elite Eights and 14 consecutive Final Fours.
McGuff believes the season, in which the Buckeyes made it further in the NCAA Tournament than they had in any of his first nine seasons at Ohio State, is one they can build off of as they look to go even further in the future.
“I think our best days are still ahead of us,” McGuff said. “I really like, we'll have to see with some of the kids who have COVID years and stuff, but just the possibilities of what we could have next year. And I think we've got great culture and got great kids in the program, and we'll add some other people one way or another. So I think this is a great opportunity for us to even build off of this.
“I think last year we took the experience of the Sweet 16 and I think we felt confident coming into that game, because we were right there, a possession away. And hopefully we can get back here and learn from this one a little bit. Because, like I said, we ran into a great team, who played really well tonight, but I think hopefully, we can look back and say, ‘Hey, boy, if we really lock in and execute a little bit better then we'll give ourselves a better chance to win.’”
Sheldon, who said she has not yet decided whether she will return to Ohio State for her extra year of eligibility, also believes the season can be a building block to even more success despite Monday’s loss.
“We had a great team this year and we're going to build off that next year,“ Sheldon said.
- Ohio State utilized the same starting lineup that it has used throughout the NCAA Tournament: Sheldon, Mikesell, Taylor Thierry, McMahon and Eboni Walker.
- Mikesell’s seven 3-pointers set an Ohio State record for the most made threes in an NCAA Tournament game.
- McMahon went back to the locker room late in the fourth quarter after a collision with Virginia Tech’s D’Asia Gregg that left both players slow to get up. McGuff said after the game that he did not believe McMahon had suffered a long-term injury.
- Ohio State is now 1-3 all-time in the Elite Eight. The Buckeyes lost their first two Elite Eight games against Old Dominion in 1985 and Long Beach State in 1987 before beating Virginia in the Elite Eight in 1993 en route to an appearance in the national championship game.
- Ohio State is now 0-2 all-time against Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes’ only previous game against Virginia Tech came on Dec. 21, 2018, when the Hokies beat the Buckeyes 81-73 in the West Palm Beach Invitational.