Adversity hasn’t deterred the Buckeyes from playing their game — or making history.
No. 4 seed Ohio State (25-6, 13-6 Big Ten) erased a 24-point deficit and completed the largest comeback in Big Ten Tournament history Saturday, knocking off top-seeded Indiana 79-75 and advancing to the conference tournament championship game.
“It was pretty wild,” head coach Kevin McGuff said. “I think one of the biggest things is it’s hard to go down 24 and win a game against anybody, but especially a great team like Indiana. Not only are they a great team, they’re well coached, they’re very organized, and they have mature, older players who don’t get rattled.”
A 19-point, 12-rebound performance by sophomore guard Taylor Thierry and freshman forward Cotie McMahon’s 12 points and 14 rebounds helped Ohio State outscore the Hoosiers 53-29 in the second half.
“As a team we’re just telling ourselves the shots are going to go down,” Thierry said. “They didn’t go in in the first half, but we just had to trust ourselves and trust our shooters, and (we) knew they were going to come down, and they did. We made some huge shots, which kind of helped us settle in.”
Senior guard Jacy Sheldon, who appeared in her third contest since returning from lower leg injury that cost her 21 games, played 10 of her 16 minutes in the second half. Her own six-point run midway through the fourth quarter brought the Buckeyes within 70-69 as 4:29 remained.
Senior guard Taylor Mikesell was fouled after a layup with 3:12 left, and her free throw gave Ohio State a 72-71 lead, its first since the first quarter.
Hoosiers graduate guard Grace Berger flipped the lead back into Indiana’s (27-3, 16-3 Big Ten) favor after a basket with 2:23 remaining.
More than a minute later, Thierry went to the free throw line to give Ohio State the advantage once more, and the Buckeyes held a 74-73 lead.
Hoosiers senior forward Mackenzie Holmes, who led Indiana behind an average of 22.7 points per game entering Saturday, made her first bucket of the second half under the basket to make it 75-74 for Indiana with 45 seconds left.
Undeterred, redshirt junior guard Rikki Harris and the Buckeyes kept focus while the 5-foot-10 guard drove the right lane and laid in the Buckeyes’ latest lead-flipping score seven seconds later.
Indiana junior guard Sydney Parrish couldn’t finish her game-tying shot attempt with 12 seconds left, and a jump ball was awarded in Ohio State’s favor after Holmes and the Buckeyes tied up under the basket.
Sheldon made both free throws on the other end, and the Buckeyes punched their ticket to the Big Ten Tournament Championship for the first time in three seasons.
“Our effort in the second half was awesome,” Sheldon said. “We played together, and it showed. We’re happy about the win, but we’re not done. We’ve got to turn our attention and focus on tomorrow.”
Harris and Mikesell finished with 13 points apiece, while Sheldon totaled 12 and a game-high four steals.
Ohio State shot 35.6 percent from the field and 4-of-23 from 3-point range, but its defense held Indiana to a 27.6 percent clip in the second half and allowed the Buckeyes to overcome their double-figure deficit.
“I thought the shots that we got were fine in the first half. We just weren’t making them,” McGuff said. “The last thing I said, I said, ‘Hey, guys, there’s nothing to save this for. We’re not playing until the NCAA Tournament, which is weeks away. So everything we got, we’ve got to show some fight because, if we want to truly play our best basketball down the stretch of the season, we’ve got to fight.’”
A 6-0 Buckeyes run highlighted the first quarter, which saw Indiana lead 23-12 after the first 10 minutes. Harris made both free throws to tie the game at 12 points with 5:34 left, but the Buckeyes fell scoreless the rest of the period.
The Hoosiers closed the first quarter on an 11-0 stretch and extended it to a 16-point run to lead 28-12 nearly two minutes into the second.
Hoosiers senior guard Sara Scalia scored nine-consecutive Indiana points more than midway through the second quarter as Ohio State shot 27.8 percent in the period.
Scalia drained three shots from distance in the second quarter, and the Buckeyes’ 28.6 percent clip from the field alongside their 1-of-13 start from 3-point range hindered their ability to catch up to the Hoosiers’ 46-26 halftime lead.
Ohio State took the court in the second half with renewed energy after shooting 28.6 percent and 1-of-13 from distance in the opening two periods.
The Buckeyes outscored Indiana 17-7 during the first six minutes and 27-17 in the third quarter.
Eight points scored in the third quarter by Thierry sparked Ohio State’s comeback bid, and her layup with 2:30 left brought the Buckeyes within 55-51.
Then Ohio State missed its final six field goal attempts, and Indiana took advantage on an 8-2 run to end the third period.
Berger led the Hoosiers with 20 points and a game-high tying six assists. Scalia added 15 points, Holmes tallied 12 and Parrish recorded 10
Ohio State will go on to face No. 2 seed Iowa or No. 3 seed Maryland in the conference tournament championship game Sunday. Tipoff will take place at 5 p.m. from the Target Center in Minneapolis broadcast on ESPN.
“We enjoy it in the moment, and we’ll get back to the hotel and start working on Iowa or Maryland,” McGuff said. “We know we have a huge challenge tomorrow. They’re both great teams and both beat us in the regular season. Maybe Monday we’ll celebrate this one, but right now it will be back to the routine of getting ready for the next one.”
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