If you had asked anyone in the vicinity of Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena who they thought would be winning Saturday’s first regional semifinal game, you likely would have received overwhelming support of the Connecticut Huskies.
Whether that be because UConn was playing in their 29th straight Sweet 16, 28 of which they’ve come out victorious…
Or because the Huskies have played in every NCAA tournament beginning with the 1988-89 season and are the winningest program in NCAA tournament history with a 132-22 overall record.
Or because UConn has been ranked in the AP Poll for 564 straight weeks, which is the longest active streak in the nation.
It could be simply because Sue Bird is Seattle’s basketball icon, and if she’s sitting in the stands supporting her alma mater Huskies, so should you.
Nevertheless, the seemingly impossible occurred and the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes upset the second-seeded Huskies to end UConn’s 30-year run without consecutive losses.
Now, the focus should not be on the team that lost, and by no means should Ohio State’s incredible talent go unnoticed just because of the consistent dominance of Connecticut.
With that said, all I have to say is: hats off to Ohio State. The teams that can walk around saying they’ve defeated UConn are few and far between.
Ohio State entered Saturday's game after narrowly defeating No. 6 North Carolina in the round of 32. The Buckeyes’ Jacy Sheldon hit a jumper with one second remaining to push her team into the Sweet 16.
Sheldon finished that game with 16, most notably with that buzzer beater at the end of the fourth, while also notching six rebounds, five assists, and two steals.
The point guard guided her team yet again in the victory over UConn, notching 17 points, seven rebounds, and five assists.
Sheldon’s 17 for Ohio State was second only to freshman teammate Cotie McMahon, who finished with a team-high 23 points and five rebounds.
McMahon, who is the second leading scorer for the Buckeyes as a first year, is averaging 15 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Ohio State had nothing to lose in Saturday’s matchup, having never won a game against Connecticut and having last played in an Elite Eight game in 1993.
They used their lower-seed underdog status to push the tempo to what they wanted it to be, which, for the Buckeyes, was tenacious defense and an offensive explosion.
Both of those things combined helped Ohio State to a 17-0 run that spanned the end of the first and part of the second quarter. During that span, Ohio State forced 11 Connecticut turnovers and limited the Huskies to just two shots.
The Buckeyes forced their opponents to 25 turnovers, the second most UConn has committed this season.
The Huskies’ inability to hold onto the basketball, combined with their poor free throw shooting (46.7 percent), kept the Huskies, who have been riddled with injuries all season, from advancing to their 14th straight final four.
Free throws were a deciding factor for the game, with Ohio State hitting 22 of 30 and UConn hitting just 7 of 15.
OSU also recorded 13 steals on the night, the 21st time this season the Buckeyes have recorded 10+ steals.
The Buckeyes’ win will usher them into their first Elite Eight appearance since 1993 and snapped UConn’s Division-I record 16-straight Elite Eight appearances.
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