BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Jacy Sheldon had no chance to shine on women’s college basketball’s biggest stage last season because her Ohio State Buckeyes were under a self-imposed postseason ban for a previous coach’s recruiting violations.
Before a large, loud and hostile crowd at LSU, Sheldon delivered a stirring, all-court performance that was two years in the making.
Sheldon had 23 points, eight assists and three steals, and sixth seed Ohio State beat No. 3 seed LSU 79-64 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday night.
“If anything, it motivated us,” Sheldon said of last-year’s postseason ban. “We all got better during that time and focused on our game and what we needed to improve on. So, I’m proud. And it’s showing. A lot of us have worked really hard.”
Taylor Mikesell scored 18 and Rebeka Mikulasikova had 12 points for the Buckeyes (25-6), who seized momentum in the opening quarter and put LSU in the deepest deficit it had face all season at 24 points late in the third quarter.
“It’s tough to play in, but also the most fun to play in — especially for competitors. It’s what you look forward to,” Sheldon said of the environment at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. “I’m super proud of our whole team. We stayed together.”
LSU (26-6), which overcame a 10-point deficit inside the final five minutes of their first round game against Jackson State two days earlier, lacked the firepower to climb out of a bigger hole against Sheldon and Co.
Khayla Pointer, the Tigers’ second-team All-America guard, scored 32 points, but also missed 18 of her 30 shots, her dry spells coming as the Buckeyes pulled away.
“Just couldn’t put the ball in the hole,” Pointer said. “It puts so much more pressure on your defense when you can’t score.”
Jailin Cherry scored 12 points for LSU, which hit just twice from 3-point range on eight attempts. Autumn Newby grabbed 10 rebounds for the Tigers.
Ohio State led 34-26 at halftime and opened the third quarter with 13-2 run that Mikesell capped with a deep 3 to give the Buckeyes a 47-28 lead.
Later in the third, Sheldon hit consecutive 3s from each side of the court to make it 57-33.
“It’s kind of like, how do you really defend her?” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said of Sheldon’s ability to score from the perimeter as well as dribble penetrate and find open players. “She’s an outstanding player.”
After Pointer hit a 3 on LSU’s first shot of the game, the Tigers missed 15 of their next 17 shots. That’s when Sheldon began to exert her full-court influence on the game, converting three steals into fast-break layups in a span of little more than two minutes.
“You never saw her at any point where she wasn’t poised,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said of Sheldon. “That was the key for our ability to finish out the game, was Jacy’s poise, keeping us organized, running the team, finishing shots around the basket when we needed them.”
Ohio State: The Buckeyes overcame the the Tigers’ front-court size advantage by shooting well from outside and effectively defending the paint when Pointer tried to drive and outrebounding LSU 43-36. Ohio State’s 10 3s on 22 attempts were more than their average of 8.3 per game coming in and they shot 48.3% overall (28 of 58).
Rikki Harris, a starting guard, was helped back to the Ohio State locker room with about three minutes left after falling hard along the sideline and crashing into the scorers’ table.
LSU: The Tigers eight points in the opening quarter tied for their lowest-scoring quarter this season. It was a bad omen as they struggled with their shooting, finishing 25 of 68 shooting (37%). They also missed 10 of 22 free throws.
Still, Mulkey’s first season at LSU was widely seen as a smashing success after the Tigers won just nine games the previous season.
“This bunch jump-started this program again. It revived it again,” Mulkey said of the seniors she inherited when she left Baylor after 21 seasons for the flagship university in her native Louisiana. “I’m forever grateful to them. … They just embraced us as a staff and let me coach them.”
As the second half was about starting, McGuff glanced up at the video board to see his daughter, Kilyn, on the court for Belmont the end of its 70-67 loss to Tennessee. Then he had to continue coaching.
“So, I’m watching her and then just trying to get focused for the game,” McGuff said. “A very surreal moment for me and for our family. But I’m really proud of her and the season that she had with Belmont and their fight tonight.”
Now in the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017, Ohio State meets second seed Texas in the Spokane Region semifinals on Friday.