BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Jacy 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.
“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 down the stretch.”
Taylor Mikesell scored 18 and Rebeka Mikulasikova had 12 points for the Buckeyes (25-6), who responded to a large, loud and hostile crowd in the Tigers’ home arena by seizing momentum in the opening quarter and putting 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 by eight at halftime and put LSU in a deep hole by opening the third quarter with a 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.
“Not shocked at all,” Mikesell said of Sheldon’s performance. “Jacy’s a competitor. She’s been doing it all year long and she was ready for this moment.”
The third of those baskets gave Ohio State a 12-8 lead, and then Mikesell hit her first 3 of the game to put the Buckeye up 15-8 after one period.
Rebeka Mikulasikova and Mikesell each hit two 3s as Ohio State widened its lead to as much as nine in the second quarter.
Pointer, who had 11 first-half points, helped stem the tide with a jumper and a driving, double-pump scoop off the glass.
But Rikki Harris’ offensive rebound of a missed jumper and kick out to the top of the key set up Braxtin Miller’s 3 to give Ohio State a 34-26 lead at halftime.
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. 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).
Meanwhile, 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.
Now the Buckeye’s, who played last season under a self-imposed postseason ban because of NCAA recruiting violations under previous coach Patrick Klein, are in the third round for the first time since 2017.
LSU: The Tigers eight points in the opening quarter tied for their lowest scoring quarter of the season. It was a bad omen as they struggled with their shooting all night. The Tigers finished 25 of 68 shooting (37%), committed 11 turnovers that led to 16 Ohio State points and missed 10 of 22 free throws.
Still, Mulkey’s first season at LSU was an enormous success after LSU won 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.”
Ohio State advances to the Spokane Region semifinals against second seed Texas on Friday.
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