COLUMBUS — Cotie McMahon scored 18 points to help No. 3 seed Ohio State pull away for an 80-66 win over No. 14 seed James Madison in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
McMahon made her team’s first 3-pointer with 5:18 left in the third quarter to give Ohio State (26-7) a 44-43 lead, and the Buckeyes didn’t give up the advantage from there on out. They trailed by as many as 16 in the first half before going on a 12-0 run.
Jacy Sheldon scored three of her 17 points during an 8-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter. Taylor Thierry shot 7 of 8 and fouled out with 15 points. Taylor Mikesell added 14 points.
“We had several open shots in the perimeter and then shots around the basket. We just weren’t finishing it,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “We looked a little rusty from being off for a couple of weeks and so hopefully this allows us to settle in and we’ll get off to a better start on Monday.”
James Madison (26-8) led 26-14 and was making 50% of its shots at the end of the first quarter. The Dukes shot 37.9% in the second half and turned it over 21 times, their most in 10 games.
Kiki Jefferson led the Dukes with 17 points and Jamia Hazell added 10.
“I thought we put it on them pretty good to start,” James Madison coach Sean O’Reagan said. “Eventually I just thought we ran out of gas a little bit and when you run out of gas against that press it doesn’t bode well for you.”
The Buckeyes trailed 37-34 and were shooting 31.3% at the half.
McMahon gets it going
Midway through the third quarter, Ohio State didn’t have the lead or a 3-point basket.
McMahon changed both of those on one shot.
The Big Ten Freshman of the Year stepped up and drained the go-ahead 3-pointer that Ohio State used to punch its ticket to the second round.
“We all just needed to see one go in,” McMahon said. “I thought it was really important for us to get going after that, and that was the shot that kind of helped us get going.”
Playing their style
The Buckeyes have come from behind in each of its past three victories.
Ohio State trailed by one point with over four minutes left March 3 against No. 17 Michigan, erased a 24-point deficit — the largest in Big Ten Tournament history — against No. 2 Indiana on March 4 and fell behind at halftime against the Dukes.
But to the Buckeyes, they still rely on trust.
“We have a style that can play from behind, number one. And number two, we’ve done this before,” McGuff said. “And so I think they have some confidence that regardless of what’s going on, if we keep playing our style and so forth, that we’ll have a chance to come back.”
Signs of strength
Sheldon missed 20 games this season while nursing a lower leg injury, including 16 straight.
It was the most amount of time Sheldon has missed at Ohio State as she started 82 of the 94 games she’s played. Sheldon played 36 minutes, most of any Buckeye, and her 17 points are her most since returning from injury.
“I think just finding ways to stay in the gym, find a way to stay around these guys as well,” Sheldon said. “We have a great group, so just being able to see them every day helped a ton.”
James Madison: The Sun Belt Tournament winners gave the Buckeyes a scare in their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016. Jefferson, the conference player of the year, was held to four points in the second half.
Ohio State: McMahon’s timely 3 was what the Buckeyes needed, although they still shot 2 of 17 from distance. Ohio State has shot worse than 31.3% from beyond the arc in two of its past three games.
Ohio State will play the winner of No. 6 seed North Carolina on Monday.