MINNEAPOLIS (AP)Rikki Harris made a go-ahead layup with 38 seconds left for 14th-ranked Ohio State in a 79-75 victory over second-ranked Indiana after rallying from a record 24-point deficit in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Saturday.
Taylor Thierry had 19 points, 12 rebounds and three steals for the Buckeyes (25-6), who turned up their full-court press in the second half to take down the regular-season conference champion Hoosiers (27-3) and damage their bid for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“Not only are they a great team, they’re well-coached, they’re very organized, and they have mature, older players who don’t get rattled,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “So to be able to come back against such a great team was really something special.”
Ohio State will play Iowa in the championship game on Sunday afternoon.
The 24-point comeback matched the largest in Big Ten history. Iowa overcame a 24-point deficit to beat West Virginia in 2018.
“We had a really bad first half. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. But it just shows the grit in this group to fight back,” Buckeyes guard Jacy Sheldon said.
Cotie McMahon added 12 points, 14 rebounds and three steals. She also played a major role in limiting Indiana star Mackenzie Holmes, who had 12 points – nearly 13 below her average – on 3-for-7 shooting.
Holmes got a hook shot to fall with 45 seconds to go for a 75-74 lead. With the Hoosiers trailing 77-75, Holmes grabbed the rebound of teammate Sydney Parrish’s jumper but was tied up by Sheldon – who had 12 points and four of Ohio State’s 14 steals – for a held ball that went to the Buckeyes on the alternating possession.
Taylor Mikesell scored 13 points for Ohio State, which finished fourth in the Big Ten standings after ranking as high as second in The Associated Press poll. This performance ought to have solidified at least a No. 3 seed for the Buckeyes, who also beat rival and 17th-ranked Michigan twice in the last three weeks.
Grace Berger led the Hoosiers with 20 points and six assists. Reserve Sara Scalia scored 15 points and Parrish added 10 points. Parrish and Chloe Moore-McNeil each had four of Indiana’s 18 turnovers. Fourteen of them came after halftime.
“We knew that the press was going to come out, and that’s on me,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “It’s not on these kids. We just didn’t handle ourselves the way we needed to.”
Holmes picked up her fourth foul with 8:43 left on McMahon’s and-one underneath that cut the Indiana lead to 63-58.
Ohio State still trailed by 10 points with 6 1/2 minutes to go, but that defensive relentlessness rarely subsided. After a five-second violation on the Hoosiers for failing to inbound the ball with 5:22 left, Sheldon converted a layup to bring the Buckeyes within 70-67.
The fact that they were even in it in the second half was quite the testament to their fortitude, after a scoreless streak of 9:40 that bridged the first and second quarters while Indiana went on a 16-0 run.
Scalia, playing in her home state after transferring from Minnesota to Indiana for this season, swished a 3-pointer with 1:12 remaining for a 46-22 lead, the largest of the afternoon for Indiana.
Ohio State had a season-low 26 points in the first half and finished the game just 4 for 23 from 3-point range, the second-worst output of the season for the Buckeyes.
With the freshman McMahon aggressively fronting McKenzie, the Buckeyes made it hard on the Big Ten’s second-leading scorer. Holmes didn’t back down from the contact, delivering some hard screens herself, but she was never able to find a rhythm while moving around at less than full speed. She briefly left the court for treatment, after appearing to be dealing with knee discomfort.
“We’re all a little nicked up right now,” Moren said.
Holmes combined for 59 points in Indiana’s pair of regular-season wins over Ohio State, so McMahon drew the daunting assignment this time.
“We knew we had to make some type of adjustment there,” McGuff said, “so we put Cotie on and fronted just to try to keep it out of her hands.”
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