2022 San Diego Invitational

San Diego Invitational Day 2: Ohio State Blitzes Oregon

San Diego Invitational Day 2: Ohio State Blitzes Oregon

Despite missing contributors in the backcourt, Ohio State flexed its muscle en route to a San Diego Invitational title.

Dec 22, 2022 by Kyle Kensing

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Ohio State hasn't played at full-strength much this season, including at the San Diego Invitational. The Buckeyes converged on America's Finest City without Jacy Sheldon, then lost Madison Greene late in their win Tuesday over South Florida. 

But if the Ohio State team that won the San Diego Invitational championship was only a partial reflection of what the Buckeyes will be come March, then Dallas better get ready to see the Scarlet and Gray. 

A huge second quarter gave Ohio State a double-digit-point cushion for much of the game, swelling to as many as 22 points, as the Buckeyes beat No. 16-ranked Oregon, 84-67. 

No. 3 Ohio State looked the part of a team on track for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament with its tenacious, trapping defense generating turnovers and contesting shots, and the offense clicking to the tune of 54 first-half points. 

Taylor Mikesell, who missed her first 11 field-goal attempts on Tuesday, was undeterred by the previous day's struggles. She was red-hot against Oregon, connecting on 10-of-13 in Wednesday's win for 25 points. 

Likewise, Rebeka Mikulasikova endured a 1-of-8 shooting performance against USF but shook it off for a 27-point outpouring against Oregon. Mikulasikova's ability to stretch the floor and draw out the Ducks' post players, hitting on 5-of-10 3-point attempts, opened the floor for teammates to attack off the dribble.

The San Diego Invitational truly showed off the depth of this Ohio State bunch, with the Buckeyes beating two NCAA Tournament-caliber opponents with different players stepping up each time out. 

For Oregon, meanwhile, the San Diego Invitational provided a launching pad for Grace VanSlooten's rise. She followed a career-high 26 points against Arkansas on Tuesday with a career-high 29 points against Ohio State. 

VanSlooten did her part to help Oregon whittle the Ohio State lead down to eight points in the fourth quarter, including grabbing nine rebounds and blocking three shots. At one point in the final period, VanSlooten snared a defensive rebound, dribbled past the resetting defense and went coast-to-coast for the lay-in. 

Despite her play, however, Wednesday's contest was all about Ohio State. 

Coach Kevin McGuff said following the win that "[the Buckeyes] need to get healthy" ahead of the meat of Big Ten Conference. And, indeed, a full roster will be vital to Ohio State's conference, and potentially national, title hopes. 

But in beating competition that has its own conference championship and NCAA Tournament aspirations ahead of it, the Buckeyes proved themselves legitimate contenders in 2023 — even at partial strength. 

Second (Over)Time's A Charm For USF 

South Florida went to overtime for a second game in as many days at the San Diego Invitational, but Wednesday's result went more favorably for the Bulls. 

Elena Tsineke scored 23 points, including the final two free throws that proved to be the difference-maker in USF's 66-65 defeat of No. 17-ranked Arkansas. 

The Bulls took Ohio State to overtime on Tuesday, building a lead of six points in the extra frame, before the Buckeyes went on a furious rally in the final 1:12. USF avoided a repeat Wednesday, though it came down to the final possession. 

Makayla Daniels, who scored 20 points, attacked the rim off the dribble but came under duress from USF defenders. After a held ball, Arkansas got one more look at a would-be, game-winning shot but couldn't connect. The Bulls held the Razorbacks without a field goal throughout the overtime. 

Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu completed one of the absolute best individual performances of the San Diego Invitational with her second double-double in as many games, 16 points and 12 rebounds. But not showing up in the stat sheet was Mendjiadeau's contributions challenging the attempts of Arkansas shooters. 

The Bulls forward contested shots down low effectively and stood her ground well, particularly down the stretch, against Arkansas' Erynn Barnum. Barnum scored a team-high 21 points, but faced heavy pressure on each of her looks late in the fourth quarter and overtime. 

USF leaves San Diego with a split, adding a resume win to its NCAA Tournament profile. And, despite dropping the opener, the Bulls proved they can play with a potential No. 1 seed. 

As for Arkansas, the Razorbacks may have finished the San Diego Invitational 0-2, but the pair of competitive games against opponents also destined for March Madness showed the Razorbacks were it stacks up ahead of Southeastern Conference play, Barnum said. 

"The past two games tested us," Barnum said. "It showed us our weaknesses, but also our strengths." 

Those strengths, she said, include their scoring balance and ball movement. As far as weaknesses? 

"Second-chance points," she said. "We need everybody down low to rebound, and everybody playing hard in the key."