Women's College Basketball

Buckeyes Trap Huskies, Advance to Elite Eight


Ohio State Buckeyes forward Cotie McMahon dribbles through traffic during Saturday’s Sweet Sixteen game against UConn at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. Photo by Chuckarelei/Sportspage Magazine

The Ohio State Buckeyes defense trapped the UConn Huskies and outscored them 21-9 in the second quarter enroute to a 73-61 win in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle on Saturday.

At first glance, it was a normal game for the Huskies. UConn guard Lou Lopez-Senechal scored the first five points of the game, guard Azzi Fudd nailed a three pointer, and forward Aaliyah Edwards scored on a layup, while Ohio State forward Eboni Walker scored her team’s only basket. UConn had a 10-2 run going with 5:58 left in the opening quarter.

Unlike their other opponents in the first and second rounds of the tournament, Ohio State fought back. Layups from Walker and forward Cotie McMahon cut the deficit to four.

Then UConn forward Dorka Juhasz got the hot hand and pushed the UConn lead to eight, which would be their largest lead of the game. With Edwards on the bench due to foul trouble, Buckeyes guards Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Thierry scored and McMahon added another layup to the mix. The Ohio State 6-0 run pulled them to within two points when the quarter ended. UConn led 17-15, despite turning the ball over eight times in the quarter.

The Buckeyes put the Huskies under the crucible in the second quarter. The half court traps and other pressure defense stretched UConn as thin as they could get. First came the Huskies 10 second violation just thirty seconds into the quarter. Then came the hot hands from the Buckeyes as McMahon hit back-to-back three pointers. Before they knew it, Ohio State put up a 17-0 run going back to the 2:37 mark of the first quarter. As Edwards picked up her third foul and McMahon converted one of two free throws, the score was 26-17 in favor of the Buckeyes with 5:46 left in the half.

UConn forward Aaliyah Edwards battles for a loose ball during Saturday’s Sweet Sixteen game against Ohio State at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. Photo by Chuckarelei/Sportspage Magazine

Fudd scored a layup 19 seconds later for UConn’s first points of the second quarter, but immediately Ohio State went on a tear again with Sheldon and McMahon scoring on jump shots, pushing the score up to 30-19.

A free throw by Juhasz and a three pointer by Fudd cut the deficit to seven, but the Huskies would not come any closer in the rest of the half. The Buckeyes led 36-26 at the half. UConn turned the ball over a total of 18 times in the first two quarters.

Both teams came out of the locker room after the halftime break with their game faces on. A shocked UConn knew that they had to get back to playing their style of basketball if they were going to have a chance at advancing to their 17th consecutive Elite Eight game. However, the Ohio State Buckeyes were just as hungry to advance past the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in three decades, the last being in 1993 when Nancy Darsch was coaching the team.

While the intensity went up, so did the scoring – for both teams. Each UConn basket was answered by one from the Buckeyes. Lopez-Senechal scored a layup, McMahon responded with a jumper. Edwards hit a layup, Buckeyes guard Taylor Mikesell answered with a jump shot. Neither team was able to go on a run. Neither team was able to obtain separation from the other. When UConn managed to connect on back to back shots, Ohio State answered with a run of their own. When the quarter ended, Ohio State still maintained a 10 point lead, 54-44.
Mikesell started the scoring for Ohio State in the final frame with a three-pointer right after play resumed. Fudd responded with a jumper. However, guard Rikki Harris took control of things for the Buckeyes, scoring the next seven consecutive points to push the lead to 18, on a 10-2 run to begin the quarter. Ohio State now led by 18, their largest lead of the game, 64-46 with 7:19 remaining on the clock.

UConn guard Lou Lopez-Senechal drives against Ohio State forward Cotie McMahon during Saturday’s Sweet Sixteen game at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena. Photo by Chuckarelei/Sportspage Magazine

The Huskies needed to respond quickly if there was going to be any hope of recovery. Juhasz and Lopez-Senechal pushed UConn out to a 9-0 run, to erase the gain by Harris. It was now 64-55 with 4:31 left on the clock.

Despite losing some momentum to the Huskies, the Buckeyes continued to play strong defense, and maintained their offensive edge. For the rest of the quarter the two teams went back to trading buckets again. After Lopez-Senechal fouled Jacy Sheldon, who hit both free throws, the game was 73-61 with 1:49 remaining in the contest. Both teams knew what the outcome would be. The Ohio State 12-point lead would become the final score as they let the clock wind down. The Ohio State Buckeyes will now advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in thirty years.

“Unfortunately for us after we got off to a great start and I thought things were – we were in pretty good shape, I think Ohio State just outplayed us and took us out of a bunch of stuff that we want to do,” said Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma. “Again, it’s unfortunate that we chose tonight to play the way we did, but I think Ohio State had so much to do with that…They knew exactly what they wanted to do and what to take away from us. We lost our balance and we lost our equilibrium a little bit and I don’t think we ever got it back.”

“We have tremendous respect for Connecticut and all that they have accomplished forever, but certainly this year, because I told the team, like they certainly have had incredible success that no one will ever match again as a program,” said Buckeyes head coach Kevin McGuff. “But they have a really good team this year. They just started getting healthy at the right time. So I think we beat one of the best teams in the country today.”

Ohio State guard Jacy Sheldon attempts a shot over the outstretched arms of UConn guard Azzi Fudd during Saturday’s Sweet Sixteen game at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. Photo by Chuckarelei/Sportspage Magazine

The Buckeyes went 23-for-60 in field goal shooting (38.3 percent) and 5-for-17 in three-point field goal shooting (29.4 percent). Forward Cotie McMahon led the Buckeyes with 23 points. Guards Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Thierry added 17 and 11 points respectively. Forward Eboni Walker led the Buckeyes with nine rebounds. Ohio State converted 22-of-30 free throw attempts, and turned the ball over 14 times.

“I think our goal is to make teams feel uncomfortable and speed ‘em up a little bit. When we get turnovers and finishes, that just gets us more excited to continue to do that throughout the game,” said Sheldon. “To be honest, we came into this game – obviously, UConn’s a great program and they have a great team this year, but we came into this game expecting to win, and I think that alone obviously builds our confidence a lot, and then seeing the ball go in the basket and being able to get into the defense that we want to, also builds our confidence.”

UConn shot 45.3 percent from the field on 24-for-53 shooting, and hit 6-of-23 three-point attempts (26.1 percent). They went 7-for-15 from the charity stripe. Guard Lou Lopez-Senechal led all scorers with 25 points, guard Azzi Fudd added 14 and forward Dorka Juhasz pitched in for 13. Juhasz led all rebounders with 10 boards.

“I think that we went on a good run the first quarter and I think that when they started pressing, we kind of got out of control. We were not really ourselves. I think it was just hard for us to come back to that,” said Lopez-Senechal. “It’s a great shock right now and … it’s a lot of credit to Ohio State because they played their A game.”

The third-seeded Buckeyes will now face the No. 1 seed in the Seattle 3 region, Virginia Tech for the Elite Eight round on Monday at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena.

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