The Best Team Not to Make the Tournament
Last season, #24 Minnesota boasted an 11 game winning streak when they hosted Ohio State for a Williams Arena New Year’s Eve celebration. Following an opening game loss to Missouri State, the Gophers knocked off their remaining non-conference opponents including Notre Dame and Arizona State before grinding out a Big Ten win over Penn State.
The Gophers were confidently poised to win their twelfth straight. Even though Ohio State led at the intermission 34-28, a second half surge carried Minnesota to a 58-51 lead with six minutes remaining in the game. The surge was led by Destiny Pitts (13 points) and Jasmine Brunson (7 points). Unfortunately, the last Gopher score, a three pointer by Pitts, came with 2:55 remaining giving Minnesota a 63-58 lead. The Buckeyes, however, kept scoring. A three from Jacy Sheldon and layups from Aaliyah Patty and Dorka Juhasz finished off a 66-63 OSU win.
Patty (13 points), Sheldon (10) and Juhasz (8) returned this season for the Buckeyes. Kierstan Bell (13) points and 4 fouls in 16 minutes did not. The three leading Gopher scorers Pitts (26), Brunson (13) and Taiye Bello (11) and 14 rebounds are just memories for Gopher fans. The loss embarked Minnesota on a five game losing streak with subsequent losses to Nebraska, Northwestern, Illinois and Iowa. The Gophers national ranking became an increasingly distant memory.
But, the Buckeyes weren’t done with us. On 13 February, in Columbus, the Gophers battled the OSU to a 24 all 1st quarter standoff. Once again, the Buckeyes kept scoring: 25 in the second quarter, 24 in the third and 26 in the fourth. Minnesota’s quarter scoring was 13, 20 and 19. A 76-99 OSU win was the result. The Gophers leading scorers were Powell (21), Scalia (14), T Bello (14) and Hubbard (10). The Buckeyes were led by Madison Greene (25), and Sheldon (19).
Then, for good measure, we met up with Ohio State in the B1G tournament. Trailing 39-33 at the half, Lindsay Whalen pretty much summed up the second half rout ending the Gopher season with a 56-77 loss:
"I felt really good going into half. Then we struggled in the third to score, but our defense was great. Then the end of the third we started to feel really good on offense. Then unfortunately the fourth, the floodgates opened a little bit."
In the B1G Tournament game the Buckeyes started what has become this season’s lineup: Sheldon (15 points), Patty (15), Miller (13), Greene (9) and Jushasz (6). The only other Buckeyes who saw action, Janai Crooms (14) and Kierstan Bell (5) were to hit the transfer portal when the season ended.
With Ohio State self-imposing tournament sanctions, at least we won’t face the Buckeyes in the post-season.
Coming and Going
After the season, Freshman Guard Kierstan Bell (B1G All Freshman Team), a sometime starter, who averaged 11 points a game, transferred to Florida Gulf Coast. Sophomore Guard Janai Crooms who averaged 7 points a game transferred to Michigan State. Freshman wing, Kae Satterfield moved on to Xavier and freshman forward Aiya Wone Aranaz to Georgia Tech. Bell, Crooms and Satterfield had been suspended during the season for violating team rules. Their transfers were not a surprise
On the entry side of the ledger, Ohio State added grad transfer forward Tanaya Beacham from Toledo and guard Hevynne Bristow from Providence. The freshmen recruits included five star guard Kateri Poole
After the moves, the Buckeyes emerged as a team with depth and a balanced offense.
The Buckeyes started the conference season by not starting the season. Their opening conference games versus Iowa, Maryland and Michigan State were postponed. On top of that, All Big Ten First Team post player, Dorka Juhasz, was sidelined because of Covid protocol.
Once underway, OSU defeated Penn State, Illinois and Iowa in OT. There was one postponement (Rutgers) mixed in. The good start was derailed by a loss in Lincoln despite the return of Dorka Juhasz to the lineup. Then came statement wins: OSU defeated Michigan and Maryland in Columbus and Indiana in Bloomington. But, they ran aground in Evanston losing to a fired up Northwestern.
And now they’ve warmed up for the Gophers by beating Iowa for a second time. Jacy Sheldon was warmest of all with 29 points, Dorka Juhasz posted a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Aaliyah Patty fouled out after scoring 15 and Madsion Greene fouled out after 12 points and 9 assists.
With a five starters averaging double figures in B1G play: Juhasz (13.2), Sheldon (16.9), Greene (14.6), Miller (11.6) and Patty (12.9), Ohio State has a bit of a Whack a Mole offense. To defeat them it helps to have some special hammers. Nebraska unleashed a 16# sledge, Kate Cain, who’s career game (22 points, 12 rebounds and 9 blocks!) frustrated the Buckeyes. Cain was aided by her front court mate, Bella Cravens who contributed 6 points, 14 rebounds and a block. Juhasz (showing a little rust on her return) and Patty each scored 13 while Greene and Sheldon each contributed 11. It was Miller (4 points) and the bench (3 points) that the Huskers breached for the win.
Northwestern, on the other hand, brought some versatile and effective ball peens to the task. Valerie Burton’s 20 points, 15 rebounds, 9 assists and 4 steals set the tone for the ‘Cats. She was assisted by Lindsey Pulliam (15 points and 10 rebounds) and Veronica Wood (9 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals). The smaller, guard dominant, Wildcats out blocked OSU 9-5. For the Buckeyes, Juhasz (11) and Patty (10) were the only players in double figures. OSU shot 29% against the Northwestern defense. Stopping the Buckeyes is a team effort.
Roving 6’4” post player, Dorka Juhasz, (13.2 points and 11.8 rebounds/game) has picked up where she left off last year with one exception. She has struggled from behind the arc. Last season Juhasz was 40-101 (.396) from three, this season she’s 5-26 (.192). Starting alongside her is 6’3” Aaliyah Patty (12.9 points and 6.7 rebounds/game) who’s solid post play allows Juhasz to roam at will. Patty missed two conference games earlier in the season and has fouled out of two of the seven B1G games.
6’4” sub Rebeka Mikulasikova has also struggled from three. Mikulasikova shot .463 from behind the arc last season compared to .133 this season. Meanwhile 5’10” shooting guard and leading scorer Jacy Sheldon (16.9 points/game) is decent from three (.333). Speedy Madison Greene (14.6 points/game) can take control when needed while point guard Braxtin Miller (11.6 points/game ) provides some necessary toughness.
Ohio State Big Ten Record (7-2):
Wins: Penn State 82-69, @ Illinois 78-55, @ Iowa OT 84-82, Michigan 81-77, Maryland 88-86, @ Indiana 78-70, Iowa 92-87.
Losses: @ Nebraska 53-63, @ Northwestern 57-69
Postponed: Iowa, @ Maryland, Michigan State, Rutgers
Jacy Sheldon Last Six Games
Team Pts Reb Asst Min Foul Nebraska 11 7 0 31 4 Michigan 20 5 0 33 4 Maryland 21 2 1 33 1 Indiana 4 4 3 29 2 Northwestern 8 2 2 36 3 Iowa 29 6 1 37 1
Dorka Juhasz Last Six Games:
Team Pts Reb Asst Min Foul Nebraska 13 12 0 28 2 Michigan 14 7 0 27 4 Maryland 6 16 1 37 3 Indiana 19 12 2 35 3 Northwestern 11 14 1 33 1 Iowa 16 10 2 2 3
HGT POS YR PLAYER MIN AVG REB 5’10” G So Jacy Sheldon 33.7 16.9 4.0 6’4” F Jr Dorka Juhasz 31.7 13.2 11.8 5’8” G Sr Madison Greene 36.4 14.6 4.6 5’11” G Sr Braxtin Miller 35.2 11.6 4.1 6’3” F Jr Aaliyah Patty 28.4 12.9 6.7
HGT POS YR PLAYER MIN AVG REB 6’4” F So Rebeka Mikalasikova 14.9 4.0 3.4 6’2” F Fr Gaby Hutcherson 13.0 4.3 2.8 6’1” F GSr Tanaya Beacham 13.6 3.8 3.6 5’8” G Fr Kateri Poole 11.4 3.0 1.2 5’10” G RFr Rikki Harris 6.1 2.0 1.3