Ohio State has never had a season like this. Undefeated at 17-0, marking the best start in program history, the Buckeyes broke out as a top team to have a season few could have predicted.
The preseason AP rankings listed Ohio State at 14. Not a bad mark for a team coming off a Sweet 16 run with three returning starters. But there wasn’t an indication that Ohio State would be perfect two weeks into January — and up to No. 3 nationally as one of the last three undefeated teams (No. 1 South Carolina and No. 5 LSU are the others).
But here’s how the Buckeyes did it:
Success by committee
Ohio State has six players averaging double figures — the only top-10 team to have that many scoring more than 10 points a game.
- Taylor Mikesell: 18.8 points
- Jacy Sheldon: 16 points
- Rebeka Mikulasikova: 13.8 points
- Cotie McMahon: 12.9 points
- Taylor Thierry: 12.3 points
- Madison Greene: 10.9 points (out for the season)
Sheldon and Mikesell led the Buckeyes last season with 19.7 ppg and 18.6 pgg, respectively. Despite Sheldon’s points dipping this season and Mikesell’s 3-point shooting percentage down from 47.5% to 39.9%, the Buckeyes are averaging about eight points more overall per game. A short step back opened the door for Ohio State’s role players.
Injuries also had a part in players stepping up. Sheldon sustained a lower leg injury Nov. 30. Madison Greene stepped in, then suffered a season-ending knee injury Jan. 5. But that didn't halt the Buckeyes' momentum. Rikki Harris stepped up with a career-high 19 points in the game Greene went down.
Thierry jumped into the starting lineup in her second season and leads the Buckeyes in rebounds (6.5), steals (2.2) and field goal percentage (66.7%). McMahon has given Ohio State great production with 12.9 points and 2.1 steals as the only freshman starter.
Mikesell, Mikulasikova, McMahon, Sheldon and Thierry have taken turns leading the scoring in games. In fact, Ohio State had a different leading scorer in each of its first four games.
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To ring in the season, Ohio State toppled then-No. 5 Tennessee 87-75 as a marker of what was to come. In 17 victories, the Buckeyes knocked off three more ranked teams (Louisville, Oregon and Michigan) at the time of the game.
The Buckeyes are fifth in point differential in the nation, beating opponents by a 23.7 points on average, but their close calls point to a team that finds a way to win. South Florida and Illinois came the closest to upsetting OSU.
In a 88-86 overtime victory, Ohio State pulled off an 18-point comeback to beat the Bulls. In their most recent outing, the Buckeyes came back from a 17-point deficit. As usual, it was a team effort. Mikesell led with 31 — she even made seven 3-pointers — but McMahon scored 22 and made 10 free throws and Thierry filled the stat sheet with 12 points, seven rebounds, four steals, two assists, one block and zero turnovers.
Here's a look at all their wins:
|TEAM||SCORE||OSU AP RANK|
|No. 5 Tennessee||87-75||14|
|No. 18 Louisville||96-77||4|
|South Florida||88-86 OT||3|
|No. 16 Oregon||84-67||3|
|No. 14 Michigan||66-57||3|
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How far can the Buckeyes go?
Right now, Ohio State sits behind South Carolina and Stanford in the AP poll — two teams that made back-to-back Final Fours. Is it possible that Buckeyes could follow down a similar path this season and make a deep run? Ohio State is looking for its first Final Four appearance since 1993.
The Buckeyes will face their next ranked opponent Jan. 23 in Iowa, with No. 6 Indiana three days later. Before the season ends, they’ll meet ranked teams five additional times with the Big Ten loaded with talent. That includes two current top-10 teams in No. 6 Indiana and No. 9 Maryland, which Ohio State will face twice.
It’s likely a loss will ensue with a schedule of that magnitude down the stretch, but come March, Ohio State will be a squad no team wants to see on the bracket.