COLUMBUS, Ohio — No matter how productive it was on offense Thursday, No. 12 Maryland women’s basketball found itself consistently in a hole against an offensive power in Ohio State.
Trailing 75-70 with about four and a half minutes left in regulation, Maryland needed to garner some sort of momentum to have a chance on the road. Ohio State junior guard Jacy Sheldon had other ideas.
Sheldon splashed in a three, then sunk an off-balance layup just 20 seconds later. The crowd at the Schottenstein Center started to come alive, and Maryland had to escape the pressure it had trouble handling all night long. Graduate student guard Katie Benzan then dribbled into a trap on the right sideline before crossing half court, and it was former Maryland Terrapin and graduate student guard Taylor Mikesell there for the steal.
Mikesell took it to the cup herself, and Ohio State had a 7-0 run that spanned less than one minute. Maryland continued to battle, but a 12-point deficit with just four minutes on the clock was too much.
Ohio State knocked off the Terps, 95-89. Maryland fell to 12-6 overall and only 4-3 in the Big Ten, which is certainly an unfamiliar place for the program.
Associate head coach Karen Blair was the acting head coach Thursday night, filling in for head coach Brenda Frese. Frese is currently in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for two days attending her father Bill’s funeral.
“As a team, something we’ve talked about this week is honoring Bill’s legacy,” Blair said. “And he stood for hard work and family. I think today, I’m happy with the performance by the team. I thought this team came out and played their hearts out, so I think we made Bill and Brenda proud.”
Thursday was also a homecoming game for freshman guard Shyanne Sellers, whose hometown of Aurora, Ohio, is only about a 150-mile trip from Columbus.
In a game between two of the Big Ten’s top-four scoring offenses — the Big Ten’s two best excluding Maryland’s 49-point outing against Michigan last Sunday — the fast-pace tempo was a theme.
Maryland put its signature 1-2-2 pressure on display, as Ohio State unleashed a press of its own. Three quick turnovers from each side led to some open breaks, a style that Maryland is more used to playing. However, it would also lead to open looks from distance for Mikesell, who drained three early threes.
Mikesell’s 11 first-quarter points pushed Blair to burn her first timeout with fewer than one minute to play in the first quarter, and her team trailing 23-12. The Terps were facing danger just 10 minutes in, but a smart play by Benzan to kick it to Collins for a buzzer-beating three-pointer from the wing had Maryland down only 25-15 after the first frame.
“That first quarter was a rough start for us,” Blair said. “If you take away that first quarter, we were plus-four the rest of the game. So I think there’s obviously a lot of positives for us to take out of here.”
Ohio State — winners of four straight heading into Thursday — was scorching out of the gates, making 9-of-12 first-quarter shots.
The Terps again struggled to generate much to start the second period, but sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese, playing with a purpose, kept the Terps afloat. Reese reached the 10-point mark by the second-quarter media timeout, while 6-foot-4 junior forward Rebeka Mikulášiková already picked up two first-half fouls.
The media pause served as a placeholder between a 9-0 Maryland run. A three by Benzan and a Collins turnaround jumper helped cut the deficit to three.
Maryland sliced its deficit to as little as three with the spurt, but Ohio State showed gumption in regaining its double-digit lead before halftime. A last-second steal by junior guard Ashley Owusu earned her two foul shots, both of which she drilled. Shooting 44% and turning the ball over 10 times, Maryland trailed at halftime, 45-37.
The Terps came out of the locker room with some urgency for the final 20 minutes.
Trailing by just four with less than seven minutes to play in the third quarter, Reese came out of nowhere to powerfully reject Sheldon’s shot out of bounds. Maryland did not completely turn the tide there, but it proved that it was not going away without a fight.
But with every Maryland punch, Ohio State would blow right back. The Buckeyes were once again up 10 points with less than three minutes to go in the third, leading to Maryland’s second timeout.
“It’s been hard to dig ourselves into those holes in the first quarter,” Benzan said. “It’s just an area of improvement for us. We’re gonna work on starting hungrier and more motivated.”
Maryland was stymied immediately after the timeout but used a lob play to Reese at the buzzer to make it a 65-57 ballgame in Ohio State’s favor through three quarters.
Ohio State continued to answer Maryland, and an intentional foul on Collins led to two made free throws for Sheldon. The Buckeyes led 71-60 with just over seven minutes to play, with time dwindling for Maryland. In response, it answered with four straight points, putting the pressure to close on the Buckeyes. Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff called a timeout, with his team only leading 71-64 with about six minutes remaining.
The quick 7-0 run proved to be the dagger the Buckeyes needed. Maryland cut the lead to as little as 85-80 with fewer than one minute to go, but it needed to play the fouling game from there on it.
Bibby traded three points for two to make it 87-83 with 42 seconds left, as Maryland showed its resilience down the stretch. Although she missed the free-throw attempt, Sheldon converted on a tough layup through contact to bring the Buckeyes’ lead back to six.
Blair used her final timeout to advance the ball with 38 seconds left, and a quick two by junior guard Diamond Miller made it a four-point game. Maryland just could not hold Ohio State, though, as it once again took a six-point lead on the ensuing possession.
After the Buckeyes used all of their remaining fouls to give, Maryland made it a four-point match again, but it was just too little, too late. Ohio State ultimately converted on the free throws it needed to make to finally dispatch the Terps.
“Just trying to get better every day,” Bibby said. “Get back in the lab, watch film and learn from this.”
Three things to know
1. The Terps started on the wrong foot for the second straight game. In its previous contest against Michigan, Maryland found itself in the same position heading into the second quarter as it did on Thursday, trailing by 10 points. Against the Wolverines, Maryland had an abysmal second quarter with only three points. That was not the case against Ohio State. The Terps kept the game within single digits and gave themselves a chance in the second half. Still, the slow start is noteworthy.
2. Both teams were effective in applying full-court pressure. Maryland’s 1-2-2 look allowed it to create turnovers and speed the game up. In the first half alone, Maryland forced eight turnovers, scoring 10 points off them. The problem for the Terps is that Ohio State’s scheme also created some issues for them. Maryland, which led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio last season, turned the ball over 10 times before halftime. The Terps gave away the ball 18 times total, which made it difficult for them to overcome.
“I thought this was a fun game,” Blair said. “Both teams came out and pressed and it was up-tempo. I think we had our fair share of creating havoc for them, and then on our end the same issue. But I really feel like we settled in.”
3. Led by Taylor Mikesell, Ohio State hurt Maryland from deep. The former Terp led the Buckeyes with a career-high 33 points, going 5-for-5 from three-point range. Mikesell was the second straight opponent to have a huge shooting game against Maryland, with Michigan’s Maddie Nolan being the other. The game’s pace led to open looks from beyond the arc, but it is a bit concerning for Maryland that this has happened in two straight contests.
“I mean, it’s annoying, we got to get better at it,” said Bibby of the defensive three-point woes. “...We try to get better everyday in practice. And so yeah, that’s one area that we really have to fix, is we can’t let players get hot. We knew, obviously she can shoot the ball. So that’s something that we really continually have to get better at in practice.”