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Women’s Basketball: No. 3 seed Buckeyes complete 16-point comeback against No. 14 seed James Madison, advance to second round of NCAA Tournament

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Ohio State senior guard Taylor Mikesell (24) high-fives freshman forward Cotie McMahon (32) as the Buckeyes storm back during No. 3 Ohio State’s 87-81 win over Illinois in Columbus on Jan. 8. Credit: Zachary Rilley | Photo Editor

The No. 3 Buckeyes’ first 3 of the night came with 5:18 remaining in the third quarter against No. 16 seed James Madison.

The shot from freshman forward Cotie McMahon sparked the Buckeyes to take a 46-44 lead they didn’t relinquish after trailing by as many as 16 points in the second quarter. The Buckeyes defeated James Madison at the Schottenstein Center Saturday afternoon, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament on their home floor.

“In our heads we just know we can’t give up because we’ve been in a bigger score difference so we felt like we just couldn’t give up,” McMahon said. “We had to change something quickly or we were going home, and we definitely didn’t want to go home.”

McMahon led the second half comeback as she finished with 18 points going 5-of-7 from the free throw line.

The resurgence of senior guard Jacy Sheldon back into the starting lineup was a sight to see for Buckeyes fans, as the Dublin, Ohio, native played in five games since injuring her foot Nov. 20, 2022, against McNeese State.

Sheldon shot 3-of-11 from the field, but her aggressiveness on the floor drove the Buckeyes to victory as she grabbed three steals and finished with six assists.

Senior guard Kiki Jefferson, the Dukes’ leading scorer and rebounder, finished the night with 17 points while grabbing eight boards. Junior guard Jamia Hazell, who helped the Dukes extend their lead with four points in the second quarter, finished with 10 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field.

The Buckeyes opened the first game of the tournament with a scare, as James Madison pounced out to an early lead. Shooting along with physicality from the Dukes in the paint led the team to the free throw line seven times in the first quarter.

Foul trouble hindered the Buckeyes early on as five players had at least one foul. McMahon picked up her second personal of the game mid-first quarter, leading head coach Kevin McGuff to look towards his bench for answers.

Over the next 1 1/2 minutes the Dukes increased their lead, going on a 7-0 run which put them up 20-11. A Buckeyes scoring drought lasted for 2:31 minutes until senior forward Eboni Walker split a pair of free throws.

Thierry converted on a fastbreak layup to cut the Dukes’ lead to six points, but on the following play, she was called for her second foul after trying a steal on Jefferson. Thierry and McMahon remained on bench for the last 60 seconds of the quarter.

“Coming out with two fouls, obviously, I was upset because I felt like that could have gone both ways,” McMahon said. “Coming out and watching how they were playing, I just felt like we just needed to do better.”

The Buckeyes finished the quarter shooting 29 percent from the floor while the Dukes shot 50 percent from the field and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.

The Dukes ended the first quarter up 26-14.

In the second frame, Sheldon slipped in the lane for two points, but the Buckeyes were called for another foul on the other end after a driving layup attempt by Jefferson. The crowd booed in dismay as the hometown team had picked up their ninth foul of the game.

McMahon, who was held to zero points in the first, looked to make her presence felt in the game. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year had 11 points in the second quarter, completing a driving layup as she crashed onto the ground with 6:45 left to play in the first half.

On the next play Hazell cashed in a jumper, putting the Dukes up 32-18.

Foul trouble along with the Buckeyes’ inability to knock down 3s put them in a double-digit hole difficult to dig themselves out of. Ohio State went 0-of-6 from 3 in the first half, while the Dukes shot 3-of-9 from beyond the arc.

“I think that we took some really good shots,” Walker said. “We just weren’t making them, so we just continued. It’s like just keep shooting.”

The Dukes seemed to be knocking on the doorsteps of an upset. However, the Buckeyes had other plans in mind.

From the 4:01 mark in the second quarter, the Buckeyes went on a 15-2 scoring run led by McMahon. Defense turned into offense for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State, top 10 in the country with a 6.44 turnover margin, went back to applying its well-known full court press.

The Buckeyes caused a 10-second violation, and McMahon went to work in the paint as she drew another foul. McMahon knocked down a pair of free throws as the Buckeyes cut the lead to 10 with 2:48 left in the half.

For the rest of the quarter, Ohio State attacked the rim and drew fouls on the Dukes, who were once the aggressors early in the game.

The first half ended with a steal from Sheldon, leading to a baseline drive and finish from McMahon. The Buckeyes cut the lead to 37-34 as they went into the locker room.

“Coming into halftime, there was no yelling, just kind of talking together as a team,” McMahon said. “Really it was our defense because we feel like if we take care of defense on offense it will take care of itself.”

The Buckeyes went on a third quarter offensive flurry. Ohio State took its first lead of the game at 5:53 after a pair of free throws from Walker.

But a 3 from McMahon lit up the Schottenstein crowd. McMahon’s 3 was Ohio State’s first of the game, finishing 2-of-17, and led the Buckeyes to later extend their lead to as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter.

“I’m excited. Whoever it is, we’re just going to have to win, find a way to do it,” Walker said. “I pray that our shots go in when we want them to and we continue to make our free throws. But we’re on to the next game and do whatever you can to keep moving forward.”

Ohio State will be back in action against No. 6 seed North Carolina in the second round of the tournament Monday. Game time is yet to be announced.

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