For the first time in 30 years, the Ohio State women’s basketball team is advancing to the Elite Eight.
The No. 3 seed Buckeyes continued their NCAA Tournament run, after a wire-to-wire 73-61 win against No. 2 seed UConn at Climate Change Arena Saturday afternoon.
The Buckeyes now move onto the Elite Eight, their first appearance since 1993.
“When I had the opportunity to come to Ohio State, this was certainly the goal and vision to go farther than they’ve been going,” head coach Kevin McGuff said. “And you know it’s not easy to get here obviously, but I’m really proud of our team and our program and how we evolved to get to this point.”
Freshman forward Cotie McMahon led the team with 23 points, going 5-of-7 from the line despite fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Senior guard Jacy Sheldon followed with 17 points, grabbing seven boards and dishing out five assists.
Graduate guard Lou Lopez Sénéchal finished with a game-high of 25 points, going 4-of-7 from 3 for the Huskies. Graduate forward Dorka Juhász, a former Buckeye of three seasons, scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
However, the story of the night for the Huskies was junior forward Aaliyah Edwards. After scoring 48 points in the first two games of the tournament, the 2021 Big East Sixth Woman of the Year was held to only four points on 2-of-4 shooting.
Edward’s low percentage shooting comes after sitting on the bench for most of the game after getting into early foul trouble, leading her to only log in 17 minutes of gametime.
For the Buckeyes, defense was ultimately the turning point.
Ohio State once again got out to a slow start, an issue that has plagued the team throughout the season. The Huskies opened on a 10-2 run, after an assist from Juhasz led to a layup by Edwards.
UConn began the quarter shooting 4-of-7 from the field while the Buckeyes went on a scoring drought for 2:10, leading McGuff to call a timeout. Ohio State scored only four points up until the 4:53 mark, which were all credited to senior forward Eboni Walker until a bucket from McMahon.
Despite being down the Buckeyes went to their signature press which has given the team success throughout the season. The Buckeyes forced six UConn turnovers up until the 1:55 mark and forced eight turnovers alone in the first quarter.
“We feed off of each other, so when one person gets a steal, and one person is doing well, we’re all doing well.” Sheldon said. “That’s what gets us going. I think we rely on that press, and to do that, we got to make shots.”
The Buckeyes shot 3-of-12 to begin the game but ended the quarter hitting their last three shots, cutting the lead 17-15 after McMahon found Thierry for a fastbreak layup.
The flurry of turnovers for the Huskies continued in the second quarter, after the Buckeyes forced a 10-second violation against the Huskies after another full court press. The Buckeyes forced six turnovers in the first six possessions for the Huskies.
This led Ohio State to take its first lead of the night at 8:49 after a steal from Thierry led to a transition 3 from McMahon.
“She’s an amazing player and amazing teammate, and she’s a freshman which is crazy,” Sheldon said. “Like coach says all the time, she’s just scratching the surface of what she can do, but tonight, she was outstanding.”
The Huskies went on a 12-5 run early on with Edwards on the floor. But Ohio State’s shooting display continued as it went on 17-0 run for the next seven minutes.
Sénéchal exited the game at 6:11 after appearing to buckle her right knee. The All-Big East First Team player left the game but would later return in the Huskies attempt to come back from an 18-point deficit in the third quarter.
The Buckeyes scoring run would end after a layup by sophomore guard Azzi Fudd at 5:27.
With 5:46 remaining in the second quarter, Edwards picked up her third foul against McMahon, leading the forward to sit for the remainder of the quarter. UConn put up only two shots up until the 3:42 mark with Juhasz splitting a pair of free throws.
Ohio State took an 11-point lead with a 1:33, its largest of the half, after Sheldon found Walker inside for a bucket. The Buckeyes ended the half outscoring the Huskies 20-10 in the paint.
“I feel like coming into the game we all believed in each other,” McMahon said. “Which helps boost all of our confidence, and we just know we thrive best when we’re confident.”
The Buckeyes turned those turnovers into points 19-5 on the other end of the court. It was only the sixth time in tournament history UConn trailed by double digits entering halftime.
The second half the Huskies tried to make a push, but it was short-lived after redshirt junior guard Rikki Harris and senior guard Taylor Mikesell combined for 12 points in the quarter.
The Huskies average 76.3 points per game, which ranks 36th in Division I women’s college basketball. The Buckeyes held the team to 61 points and nearly matched the team on the boards.
Ohio State, who has had trouble rebounding this season, held their own in a top matchup against UConn. UConn is ranked No. 31 in rebounds per game, but the Huskies only had the rebounding edge up 38-34 on the Buckeyes.
The Huskies finished the game with 25 turnovers, with most coming in the first half. McGuff said he told the team they were going to disrupt UConn offensively throughout the game.
“I was telling the team all week you can’t let UConn walk the ball up and execute in half court for 40 minutes, they’re going to pick you apart,” McGuff said. “They’re going to backdoor you, and they’re going to get too many easy baskets.”
Juhasz, who spent three years at Ohio State before transferring to UConn, is one of five UConn players to average double-digit scoring this season. She was only one of three of UConn’s players to score in double-digits tonight: Sénéchal, Dorka and Fudd.
For Ohio State, a signature win like this has ended a 16-year consecutive streak for UConn to the Elite Eight while propelling the Buckeyes to make history of their own since 1993.
“Like we’ve all mentioned, UConn is a great program,” McGuff said. “They’re known for so many great accomplishments, so I feel like coming out and being able to play UConn and come out with a win is really cool.”
The Buckeyes will play again Monday in the Elite Eight. The time and team are currently to be determined.
Story was updated at 9:00 p.m. to update the headline, as well as include quotes from the postgame press conference.
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