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Ohio State women’s basketball overcomes early deficit to stun Michigan, 77-73

It was as if “deja vu” had struck the floor of the Schottenstein Center Tuesday night as the Ohio State women’s basketball team dug itself into a hole early, just like it had on the road at Michigan a month ago.

But unlike the earlier matchup, the Buckeyes held on to top the Wolverines, 77-73.

The first half opened with a 0-for-9 combined shooting performance from freshman guard Kelsey Mitchell and junior guard Ameryst Alston, the two leading scorers for the Buckeyes.

Similar to the game played in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Jan. 11, nine turnovers and 36 percent shooting on the offensive end for OSU allowed the Wolverines to get out ahead early.

Coach Kevin McGuff said the games were similar, but noted that he preferred the new outcome.

“It was really interesting but the outcome was different and that makes everything better,” he said after the game.

Sparked by a four-point play by Mitchell, the Buckeyes bridged the gap to three with a 10-2 run to close the half.

Momentum seemed to have shifted in favor of the Scarlet and Gray to open the  second half in front of an exhilarated home crowd. But as the Wolverines have shown defensively all season, nothing comes easy.

“I think it was a little bit of a momentum swing,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “But then we came out in the second half and were able to get the lead again.”

With Michigan winning by as many as 13 with 9:10 to play, the second half presented a game that looked all too familiar for OSU, as if it were headed down a familiar, maize and blue-colored path.

Enter Kelsey Mitchell.

“Coach said either buckle down or we’re going to lose,” Mitchell said. “From that point on we made big adjustments. Every last one of our players added energy to the court.”

Mitchell proved why she is the nation’s leading scorer in turning a slow first-half into a big finish. She fueled a 12-0 run to bring the Buckeyes back to within one of the Wolverines.

“She had a little bit of a tough start but her ability to attack, attack, attack wore them down,” McGuff said. “She has that physical and mental ability to just keep attacking and is in the best physical shape to do so.”

Michigan came into the game with the same game plan as earlier this season: stop Mitchell. The Maize and Blue successfully did so in the first-half but the freshman, who passed Katie Smith for most points ever in their first OSU season, wore the Wolverines down.

“Credit goes out to her,” Arico said. “They wore us down in terms of really being able to focus on her.”

In a rivalry game and one both Mitchell and McGuff labeled as a “must win,” the bigs for OSU proved to be the X-factor. It was a physical battle down-low and sophomore Shayla Cooper and freshman Alexa Hart both posted double-doubles for the Buckeyes.

“I think down the stretch, Shayla and Alexa did a great job for us,” McGuff said.

The win keeps OSU at fourth place in the Big Ten and when looking back, in a position that was never imagined a just a few months ago.

“I think it just shows how far we’ve come,” junior guard Cait Craft said. “Coach said back in November that he wouldn’t of thought we could have won that game.”

Revenge was achieved, and in a similar game with a reversed outcome, has left Michigan with a sour taste.

“I’m sure they felt after that game as sick as I do now,” Arico said. “It hurts, we were so close.”

OSU looks to continue its winning ways on the road at Illinois on Saturday at 4 p.m.

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