Despite holding a first-half lead, the Ohio State women’s basketball team could not hold off No. 23 Minnesota on Thursday night at the Schottenstein Center.
After allowing Michigan to put up triple-digits in their last outing, the Buckeyes’ defense came out to play, forcing 10 Minnesota turnovers in the first half. Despite six turnovers of its own, OSU (11-7, 3-3) finished the half leading Minnesota, 28-27.
But the Golden Gophers (15-2, 4-1) outscored the Buckeyes, 49-44, in the final 20 minutes en route to a 76-72 victory.
A 20-point first-half effort, including six-of-13 shooting from behind the arc, from freshman guard Kelsey Mitchell helped the Buckeyes fend off a late Gopher run to keep the lead headed into halftime.
“She’s just unbelievably talented and we knew that coming in,” Minnesota coach Marlene Stollings said. “She’s a heck of a player but I thought we did a better job on her in the second half.”
In a cleaned-up second half, Minnesota came out swinging, gaining the lead within the first 10 seconds of play and never giving it back for longer than 30 seconds. Led by 29 points from senior forward Shae Kelley, the Gophers were able to hold off every Buckeye attempt to regain the lead.
And there were a lot of them.
OSU and Mitchell never backed down, as she scored a game-high 36 points, but the Buckeyes still came up short.
The Buckeyes never fell more than eight points shy of Minnesota, making the Gophers work for every point they put up. Minnesota shot 45.2 percent from the field in the second half, while OSU shot 36.6 percent.
In the end, the lack of a second scorer for the Buckeye offense lost OSU the chance to pull the upset at home.
“We usually have at least one other person who provides ammunition offensively,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “And tonight we didn’t get that.”
It was a homecoming game for Stollings and assistant coach Nikita Lowry Dawkins, both of whom played for the Scarlet and Gray during their collegiate careers.
“It’s always special coming home,” Stollings said. “I always get chills walking in here.”
Junior guard Ameryst Alston added 18 points for the Buckeyes, who are set to face Penn State at home on Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.