Despite a poor shooting performance in the first half, No. 17 Ohio State prevailed over Bucknell in its season opener Wednesday, defeating the Bisons 71-48 at the Schottenstein Center.
The Buckeyes (1-0) struggled to find their rhythm early on against Bucknell’s 2-3 zone, shooting just 8-29 from the field and 2-10 from three in the first half — including a stretch where the team missed 13 shots in a row.
Although Ohio State jumped out to a 20-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, its shooting woes allowed Bucknell (0-1) to stay in the game, propelling the Bison on a 11-0 run midway through the second quarter to take a 22-20 lead.
Head coach Kevin McGuff said his team was stagnant and settling for long-range shots on the offensive end during the first half, making it easy for the Bison to defend.
“We were taking open shots, but we were taking the same shots,” McGuff said. “We only had two assists in the first half.”
With just a four-point lead, the Buckeyes’ offense erupted to begin the second half — netting five early field goals that expanded the Ohio State lead to 11.
From that point, the Buckeyes never looked back, shooting 55.6 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from three in the second half en route to the 23-point victory.
McGuff said his team was able to increase its shooting percentages by spacing the floor and passing it from side-to-side against the Bison zone,an offensive strategy that generated eight Buckeyes assists in the second half.
“Eight is where we should be,” McGuff said. “We moved the ball significantly better in the second half and it led to better shots and better balance. We were getting to the rim, getting to the free throw line, then getting open threes, not just one pass and a three.”
Ohio State’s offensive performance was led by junior guard Jacy Sheldon and senior guard Taylor Mikesell — who scored 20 and 14 points respectively on a combined 42.3 percent shooting.
McGuff said he was particularly impressed with the performance of Mikesell, who made her Buckeyes debut after receiving eligibility to play this season on Saturday.
McGuff pointed to the Massillon, Ohio, native’s ability to fit right into Ohio State’s system as a transfer from Oregon.
“[Mikesell was] really good,” McGuff said. “Obviously I think she will continue to get better and grow in our system. I thought it was a good start for her.”
Mikesell — who shot 4-8 from three — said she has already established the trust of her coaches and teammates due to her confidence in her scoring and shooting abilities.
“Coach McGuff and coach Wes [Brooks] just tell me to keep shooting,” Mikesell said. “I have the mindset that if you miss four, the next four are going to go in. I saw one go in and we came out here and shot it after halftime.”
The Buckeyes also received offensive production from sophomore guard Kateri Poole, who showed both offensive scoring ability and toughness around the net in her eight-point and four-rebound performance.
McGuff said the Bronx, New York, native will use her scoring and passing ability to help fill the void left at the point guard position by junior guard Madison Greene, who will miss the entire 2021-22 season with a knee injury that will require surgery.
“Kateri has a lot of talent,” McGuff said. “One of the things that makes Madison so special is that she makes everybody around her better. Kateri has that type of skill as well.”
Although the Buckeyes claimed their first victory of the season, McGuff said his team will need to show more consistency on both ends in order to compete at a high level throughout the regular season.
“It was a typical opening game and a mixed bag for us,” McGuff said. “We had some stretches where we were really good and some stretches where we just weren’t on both ends of the floor. [There was] a lot of positive stuff, but there is a long way to go for us to be the team I think we are capable of being.”
The Buckeyes will look to improve to 2-0 Sunday at Value City Arena when they host Norfolk State at 2 p.m.
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