In its first game inside the Covelli Center since last November, the No. 21 Ohio State women’s basketball team delivered a dominating performance, defeating Cincinnati 86-50 for its fifth consecutive victory.
After hitting the century mark Tuesday night against Bellarmine, the Buckeyes (5-0) followed up its record-breaking night with another impressive offensive display, shooting 58 percent from the field and 50 percent from three.
Although the Bearcats (3-3) held their first five opponents to a combined 35 percent shooting, head coach Kevin McGuff said his offense was able to move past a stout Cincinnati defense by sharing the ball and showing versatility.
“Tonight is a good indication of where we are at our best,” McGuff said. “We were not only spreading the ball around and scoring, but we had a nice combination of drives to the basket, throw it inside, three point shots. That’s when we are really good.”
Among the Buckeyes’ offensive standouts was junior forward Rebeka Mikulasikova, who matched her career-high with 19 points on 7-8 shooting.
The Nitra, Slovakia, native, said she was able to impose her will inside the paint as the game progressed by collecting herself at halftime and playing within her strengths.
“I think I just had to calm down and work more mentally,” Mikulasikova said. “I wanted to make sure that I am good and that I believe in myself and I believe in the shots I am taking. So it was just all about confidence.”
In the backcourt, junior and senior guards Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Mikesell added another layer to their productive seasons, with the two starters scoring 17 and 15 points, respectively, on a combined 11 of 20 shooting.
Sheldon, who leads the Buckeyes with 19 points per game, said she was particularly impressed with the backcourt’s ability to take care of the ball against Cincinnati junior guard Akira Levy, who entered the game 7th in the nation with 19 steals, yet failed to record a steal on the night.
“She’s a great defender,” Sheldon said. “That’s something we talked about and made sure we were focusing on. We need to improve on taking care of the ball, but I think we did a pretty good job on that tonight. Going up against those defenders, it pushes you to get better.”
The Dublin, Ohio, native was also part of a group of Buckeyes’ guards who crashed the glass throughout the night, with Sheldon, sophomore guard Kateri Poole and freshman guard Taylor Thierry combining for 16 of the team’s 32 rebounds.
Sheldon said her team, who out-rebounded the Bearcats 32-31, placed an extra emphasis on rebounding as a committee during practice, as it would be needed to compete on the glass with a Cincinnati team which has three players averaging at least five rebounds per game.
“We definitely emphasized that all week because Cincinnati is a great rebounding team,” Sheldon said. “We just made it clear that even our guards are going to have to hit and go find somebody and then go get the ball.”
For the Bearcats, head coach Michelle Clark-Heard’s offense was led by Levy and sophomore guard Jillian Hayes, as the two backcourt-mates netted 11 and 16 points, respectively, along with a combined 7 rebounds.
Despite five straight convincing wins to start the season, McGuff said his team still needs to improve on many fronts if they want to successfully navigate through its tough December and Big Ten schedule.
“I think we’ve gotten better since we started,” McGuff said. “But we still have a long way to go. We are probably a little further ahead on offense than we are on defense, so we need to make sure our defense continues to get better, and our rebounding.”
The Buckeyes will hit the road for the first time this season Wednesday when they travel to Syracuse, New York, to face the 2-4 Orange at the Carrier Dome.