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Ohio State takes No. 5 Tennessee by storm: What we learned from the upset

Ohio State guard Jacy Sheldon attempts to shoot over Tennessee guard Jasmine Powell. (Joseph Scheller/USA TODAY Sports)

The students could only wait so long.

After all, they had just witnessed No. 14 Ohio State defeat No. 5 Tennessee in the season opener for both teams. Not since 2008 had a team outside the top 5 started its season with an upset against a top-5 opponent.

Finally, security guards and stadium ushers stepped aside, and the Buckeye student section stormed the court, meeting their team to jump, cheer and capture the moment on iPhone videos.

Ohio State went from trailing by eight points at halftime and looking overmatched by the length and size of Tennessee to dominating the second half and securing an 87-75 victory over the Volunteers.

And though the win came in the first game of the season – far too early to determine overall success – Ohio State’s grit and intensity gave fans plenty to cheer about.

The Buckeyes put on a brilliant defensive performance. They pressed for most of the contest, with guards Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Mikesell providing pressure at the top, and forced Tennessee to commit 29 turnovers. That number is bad no matter how you look at it, but it gets worse when you consider Tennessee’s number of made field goals: 28. A game with more miscues than makes is rarely going to end in a victory.

Sheldon led the defensive effort with a career-high eight steals, while Emma Shumate came off the bench to provide rim protection, finishing with three blocks.

After advancing to the Sweet 16 last season, both squads have Final Four aspirations. The first game of the season isn’t indicative of late season success, but it provides a baseline for both squads.

Here’s what we learned from Ohio State’s historic victory.

Ohio State

The Buckeyes play a brand of defense that opponents will struggle with in the postseason.

Once Ohio State gets into Big Ten play, there will be squads that figure out how to beat it — but those are opponents who are familiar with Ohio State’s style and personnel. In the tournament, the Buckeyes likely will face unfamiliar opponents, and that works in their favor. The kind of high-intensity defense Ohio State plays is difficult to replicate in practice, and the real thing often catches teams off guard.

Early in the game, Ohio State struggled to finish around the rim (going 12-of-31), and even more so from beyond the arc (1-of-10), but they stayed within their offense and adjusted in the second half. Tennessee’s length and athleticism seemed to be an issue for Ohio State early, but once the Buckeyes got their defense working, the offense followed.

Sheldon and Mikesell will once again lead this team. Sheldon finished with 14 points and eight assists to go with her eight steals, and Mikesell led the team in scoring with 25 points (including four 3-pointers). But the Buckeyes also got an excellent showing from Rebeka Mikulášiková, who finished with 17 points and nine rebounds – a huge increase from 9.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game last season. Her improvement might be the difference between another Sweet 16 finish and a Final Four run.

Tennessee's Jordan Horston attempts to block Ohio State's Taylor Mikesell. (Joseph Scheller/ USA TODAY Sports)


Tennessee needs to hope that the 29 turnovers were a result of opening-game jitters and not a bigger issue. Because if the Vols don’t take better care of the ball, it will be a long season of disappointment.

Another issue was the foul trouble Tamari Key endured. The 6-foot-6 center provides an excellent target on offense and a rim protector on defense, but she can’t do either of those things if she plays 13 minutes, as she did Tuesday. Finding a way to keep her on the floor will be crucial going forward; otherwise, Tennessee’s size advantage is much easier to neutralize.

Two positives for Tennessee were the play of Jordan Horston and Jasmine Powell. Horston led her team with 20 points and 13 rebounds – though she did commit seven turnovers. But the most important part of Horston’s game was simply that she played. After injuries kept her out of the NCAA tournament, the Vols are celebrating her return.

Meanwhile, Powell, who made her debut after transferring from Minnesota, fit right into the Volunteer offense. She went 7-of-12 for 19 points, and when she got downhill, no one on Ohio State could stay in front of the guard. But like Horston and the rest of the Vols, she had turnover problems, with five miscues.

Alyssa Naeher’s goalkeeper jersey sells out in less than three hours

uwnt goalie alyssa naeher wears jersey on the field with club team chicago red stars
USWNT star keeper Alyssa Naeher's new replica NWSL jersey was an instant success. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in the NWSL's 12-year history, fans can now buy their own goalkeeper jerseys. And while replica goalkeeper jerseys representing all 14 NWSL teams hit the market on Wednesday, some didn't stick around for long. 

Fans across women's soccer have long vocalized their discontent over the position's lack of availability on social media, often comparing the shortcoming to the widespread availability of men’s goalkeeper jerseys. And as the NWSL has grown, so has demand — and not just from those in the stands. 

"To have goalkeeper kits available for fans in the women’s game as they have been for so long in the men’s game is not only a long-awaited move in the right direction, it’s just good business," said Washington Spirit goalie Aubrey Kingsbury in an team press release. "I can’t wait to see fans representing me, Barnie [Barnhart], and Lyza in the stands at Audi!"

Business does, in fact, appear to be booming. Alyssa Naeher’s Chicago Red Stars kit sold out less than three hours after the league's announcement. Jerseys for other keepers like DiDi Haračić, Abby Smith, Michelle Betos, Katelyn Rowland, and Bella Bixby aren’t currently available via the Official NWSL Shop, though blank goalkeeper jerseys can be customized through some individual team sites. Jerseys start at $110 each.

"This should be the benchmark," said Spirit Chief Operations Officer Theresa McDonnell. "The expectation is that all players’ jerseys are available to fans. Keepers are inspiring leaders and mentors with their own unique fan base who want to represent them... I can’t wait to see them all over the city."

Simone Biles talks Tokyo Olympics fallout in new interview

gymnast simone biles on a balance beam
Biles' candid interview shed light on the gymnast's internal struggle. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Decorated gymnast Simone Biles took to the popular Call Her Daddy podcast this week to open up about her experience at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, revealing she thought she was going to be "banned from America" for her performance.

After Biles botched her vault routine due to a bout of the "twisties," she withdrew from the team final as well as the all-around final in order to focus on her mental health. She later reentered the competition to win bronze in the individual balance beam final.

In her interview with podcast host Alex Cooper, Biles admitted to feeling like she let the entire country down by failing her vault attempt.

"As soon as I landed I was like 'Oh, America hates me. The world is going to hate me. I can only see what they’re saying on Twitter right now,'" she recalled thinking. "I was like, ‘Holy s---, what are they gonna say about me?'"

"I thought I was going to be banned from America," she continued. "That’s what they tell you: Don’t come back if not gold. Gold or bust. Don’t come back."

Widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles has hinted at a desire to join her third Olympic team in Paris, though her participation won't be confirmed until after the gymnastics trials in late June. She holds over 30 medals from the Olympic Games and World Artistic Gymnastics Championships combined, and if qualified, would be a sure favorite heading into this summer’s games.

Caitlin Clark reportedly nearing $20 million+ Nike deal

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever poses for a portrait at Gainbridge Fieldhouse during her introductory press conference
WNBA-bound Caitlin Clark is said to be closing in on a monumental NIke deal. (Photo by Matt Kryger/NBAE via Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark is reportedly close to cementing a hefty endorsement deal with Nike.

The Athletic was the first to break the news Wednesday evening, commenting that the deal would be worth "eight figures" and include her own signature shoe. On Thursday afternoon, the publication tweeted that the deal would top $20 million, according to lead NBA Insider Shams Charania. Both Under Armour and Adidas are said to have also made sizable offers to the college phenom and expected future WNBA star.

The new agreement comes after Clark's previous Nike partnership ended with the conclusion of the college basketball season. She was one of five NCAA athletes to sign an NIL deal with the brand back in October, 2022. 

Considering Clark's overwhelming popularity and Nike's deep pockets, the signing's purported value doesn't exactly come as a shock. New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu’s deal with the brand is reportedly worth $24 million, while NBA rookie and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama’s deal is rumored to weigh in at $100 million. And in 2003, LeBron James famously earned $90 million off his own Nike deal. 

Clark’s star power continues to skyrocket, with the NCAA championship averaging 18.9 million viewers and the 2024 WNBA Draft more than doubling its previous viewership record. Following the draft, Fanatics stated that Clark's Indiana Fever jersey — which sold out within an hour — was the top seller for any draft night pick in the company’s history, with droves of unlucky fans now being forced to wait until August to get their hands on some official No. 22 gear.

In Wednesday's Indiana Fever introductory press conference, the unfailingly cool, calm, and collected Clark said that turning pro hasn’t made a huge impact on how she’s conducting her deals.

"If I’m being completely honest, I feel like it doesn’t change a ton from how I lived my life over the course of the last year," she said. "Sponsorships stay the same. The people around me, agents and whatnot, have been able to help me and guide me through the course of the last year. I don’t know if I would be in this moment if it wasn’t for a lot of them."

Star slugger Jocelyn Alo joins Athletes Unlimited AUX league

softball star jocelyn alo rounds the bases at an oklahoma sooners game
Former Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo has signed with Athletes Unlimited. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Former Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo has signed on with Athletes Unlimited and will compete in the AU Pro Softball AUX this June.

The NCAA record holder in career home runs (122), total bases (761), and slugging percentage (.987), Alo was originally drafted by the league in 2022 but opted instead to join the newly debuted Women’s Professional Fastpitch

Alo currently plays for independent pro softball team Oklahoma City Spark, with team owner Tina Floyd reportedly on board with her recent AUX signing. AUX games are scheduled for June 10-25, while the Spark's season will kick off June 19th. Alo will play for both. 

Among those joining Alo on the AUX roster are former James Madison ace pitcher Odicci Alexander and former Wichita State standout middle infielder Sydney McKinney.

According to Alo, the decision to play in the Athletes Unlimited league was fueled by her desire to propel women's sports forward as well as provide more exposure to a sport that's given her "so many opportunities."

"Not only to challenge myself more, but just for the growth of the game," Alo said, explaining her reasoning to The Oklahoman. "I genuinely believe that professional softball can be a career for girls."

Joining AUX is also one more step in her plan toward representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I’m constantly thinking about how can I do these little things right in these four years to prepare me for the biggest stage of softball," she told The Oklahoman. "I definitely want to play in the Olympics, for sure."

Alo further expressed enthusiasm in the hope that the rise of other women’s sports, like women’s basketball and the NWSL, will push softball’s professional viability even higher.

"We’re seeing the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) get their stuff going, I see the WNBA starting to get hot," she continued. "I feel like the softball community is like, 'All right, it’s our turn and it’s our turn to just demand more.'"

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