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Women’s Basketball: Buckeyes NCAA Tournament run ends, falls against top-seeded Virginia Tech in Elite Eight

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Ohio State senior guard Jacy Sheldon (4) leads an Ohio State breakaway in the Ohio State-North Carolina NCAA tournament game in Columbus March 20. Ohio State won 71-69. Credit: Zachary Rilley | Photo Editor

Less than 48 hours ago, the Buckeyes made history advancing to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1993.

The celebration was short-lived, however, after falling 84-74 to No. 1 seeded Virginia Tech at Climate Pledge Arena Monday night in Seattle.

For Ohio State’s head coach Kevin McGuff, this marks an end to a memorable NCAA Tournament run and the last collegiate game for senior guard Taylor Mikesell.

“Being in the position we were in last year, kind of the driving the reason why I wanted to come back,” Mikesell said. “Just being able to put ourselves in the position to get to the Final Four, had the opportunity. I think it’s meant everything to me.”

The Buckeyes (28-8, 12-6 Big Ten), who haven’t made an Elite Eight in 30 years, found themselves up against a galvanizing Hokies (31-4, 14-4 ACC) team who were appearing in their first Elite Elight in program history.

A 25-point performance by Mikesell, who went 7-of-10, kept the Buckeyes within striking distance for most of the game.

It wasn’t enough to knock off the Hokies, as ACC Player of the Year senior center Elizabeth Kitley scored 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting. However, junior guard Georgia Amoore, who finished with 24 points, was the Hokies savior as she broke the Buckeyes’ signature press.

McGuff credited Amoore’s dribbling abilities to break the press but also felt that the Buckeyes were tired from Saturday’s defensive performance against UConn.

“We didn’t have quite the same energy in the press,” McGuff said. “When you don’t have it, it’s tough because you can really get beat up on the back end and give up easy baskets.”

The Buckeyes entered the fourth quarter on a scoring drought from the previous period, which lasted over three minutes until a jumper from senior forward Eboni Walker. With 8:33 to go in the fourth, Virginia Tech took a 10-point lead, its largest lead of the night, after a jumper from Kitley over Walker.

Coming out of an Ohio State timeout, the Buckeyes scored a 2-pointer after Sheldon cut to the lane, putting the Buckeyes within striking distance 69-57. Kitley put the Hokies back up 10 after completing a three-point play.

Kitley had scored the last seven Virginia Tech points, while Mikesell, who exploded for 19 in the first half, was held scoreless until a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer at 3:38. The Buckeyes had gone 0-of-8 from 3 after hitting five in the first two quarters and time was running.

A curl 3 from Mikesell cut the deficit to 80-74, but the Buckeyes’ inability to apply pressure on the defensive end of the court determined the rest of the game, as Virginia Tech punched its ticket into the Final Four and eliminating the Buckeyes from their championship hopes.

“I think our best days are still ahead of us,” McGuff said. “We’ll have to see with some of the kids who have COVID years and stuff, but just the possibility of what we can have next year. I think we’ve got a great culture and got great kids in the program.”

The Buckeyes, who came off a defensive performance against UConn that saw 18 forced turnovers in the first half, could not match the same numbers against Virginia Tech from the opening tipoff.

Ohio State forced 13 turnovers against a Hokies team, averaging 13 a game. The Buckeyes couldn’t execute their full-court press due to Amoore’s speed.

Amoore, who was coming off a career-high 29 points against No. 3-seeded Tennessee, found ways to break through the press through her savvy quickness. Despite being the shortest player on the court, the 5-foot-6 junior guard slipped through the Buckeyes’ press, which they only applied four times in the first quarter.

The opening quarter was a shooting exhibition as both teams combined for five 3s in the first four minutes. The Buckeyes’ first miss came with 7:38 in the first quarter after a missed jumper from Sheldon, but the Hokies started a perfect 7-of-7 from the field, with senior guard Cayla King taking up most of the scoring load with nine early points.

Virginia Tech showed its shooting depth as five players were on the board in the first six minutes of the game. The Hokies’ first miss of the night didn’t come until five minutes into the ballgame.

The Buckeyes took their first lead of the night 23-22 with 1:49 remaining in the first quarter. Ohio State ended the quarter up by three as they shot 73 percent from the field.

It was the first time Virginia Tech had trailed in the tournament.

“In the first half, both teams were playing at a very high level and making tough shots and executing to get good shots,” McGuff said. “As the game went on, they just did a little more of that then we did in the second half and took advantage of the opportunities they got.”

A steal from Walker led to a fastbreak layup for sophomore forward Taylor Thierry, capping off an 8-0 Buckeyes’ run. After starting perfect from the field, the Hokies went 1-of-9 until a floater by senior forward D’asia Gregg in the lane.

The rest of the second quarter was a back-and-forth exchange from distance, mostly between Mikesell and Amoore. A 3-pointer from Amoore would give the Hokies a brief 31-29 lead. Mikesell returned fire, knocking down a 3 of her own as part of a 4-of-4 start from beyond the arc.

The Buckeyes shot 64 percent from the field while shooting 5-of-9 from beyond the arc in the first half, trailing 48-45 at the break.

The Hokies will advance to the Final Four, while the Buckeyes will be catching an early flight back to Columbus and go back to the drawing boards for next season.

For Mikesell, tonight’s loss marks an early ending to a remarkable collegiate career. The Massillon, Ohio, native reflected on her career as a Buckeye and credited her teammates for their support throughout her journey.

“They’re kind of the best part about this whole thing,” Mikesell said. “Probably going to miss just being able to hang out with them most more than anything.”

Story was updated at 1:04 p.m. March 28 to include quotes from postgame.

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