A road matchup against No. 20 Michigan State (22-7, 13-4) was how the No.5 Ohio State (23-6, 15-3) women’s basketball team would end its regular season, and it surely was a thrilling conclusion.
After losing to Minnesota just three days ago in overtime, the Buckeyes once again needed extra time to try and secure a win. However, they fell to the Spartans in not one, not two but three overtime periods, 107-105, on Saturday in East Lansing, Michigan.
Despite the loss, sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell set a single-game scoring record for OSU after dropping 48 points. Senior guard Ameryst Alston added 19 points and seven assists.
It was Michigan State’s senior day, making it the second game in a row that the Buckeyes would battle against an opponent honoring its seniors. The inspired Michigan State roster followed the same strategy that Minnesota set in place against OSU by coming out in a zone defense.
After facing a zone the past few games, though, the Buckeyes started to find a flow, moving the ball around the court and being patient until they found the shot they were looking for.
The first half was bundled with highlight action from both squads, but neither team was able to take advantage of opportunities that were presented. At the halfway mark, the Buckeyes and Spartans were knotted up at 34 apiece.
As could be expected from the matchup between ranked conference foes, the lead was exchanged multiple times between the two teams, with a total of 22 lead changes and 16 ties by the final buzzer.
The Spartans came out of the locker room for the second half fired up, willing to do whatever it took so that OSU wouldn’t be able to celebrate a win on their home court, on their senior day.
Michigan State swarmed the Buckeyes on the defensive end at the beginning of the second half, forcing five turnovers in a 2:18 stretch, then making OSU coach Kevin McGuff take a timeout to allow his team to regain composure with 6:08 to play in the third quarter.
The Buckeyes would finish the game coughing up the ball 25 times, allowing the Spartans to score 18 points off those mistakes.
Back and forth the two teams went until the final media timeout of the fourth quarter when the action began to get interesting.
At the timeout, the score was knotted up at 63. With the Spartans controlling the final few minutes of play, the Buckeyes had a tough time regaining the momentum to help put them ahead.
Down two points with under a minute to play and the game clock ticking down, Mitchell tied it up after making a nifty spin move in the paint and floating the rock through the net. With 25 ticks remaining, the teams were leveled at 72.
Michigan State would not have to worry about the shot clock in the final seconds, but redshirt junior Ariel Powers, who has been the Spartans’ main scorer all year, missed the potentially game-winning pull-up jump shot, pushing the game into overtime.
The continued exchanges for the lead continued in the extended time, and with 11 seconds left the Buckeyes thought they had the road win wrapped up with a two-point lead. They were wrong.
Senior center Jasmine Hines, who finished the game with a career-high 36 points to make for an impressive senior day showing, would answer for the Spartans and tie the game, moving it to another bonus period.
The second overtime was controlled by the Buckeyes; receiving contributions from Mitchell, Alston and sophomore guard Asia Doss.
The defensive specialist Doss made a huge steal for her team and scored on the other end to put OSU ahead 92-88, but it was immediately was answered by Spartan redshirt sophomore guard Branndais Agee on a 3-pointer.
Alston went to the charity stripe after getting fouled off the inbound, where she knocked down both and regained the three-point lead for the visitors.
Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant then drew up a play during a timeout, which her team executed to perfection, as junior guard Tori Jankoska drained one from downtown to tie it up 94-94 with 11.1 seconds on the game clock.
The Buckeyes put the ball in Mitchell’s hand for the final shot. Dribbling down the floor, the sophomore made a move to the left wing, but after being unable to create space for a shot, she looked to kick out to Alston. But the pass went awry, flying out of bounds.
Triple overtime was next on deck.
In the third and final overtime period Michigan State would dig down, eventually coming out on top when time expired. Jankoska was the hero yet again for the Spartans, knocking down her three free throws at the end to get the two-point lead and victory.
Mitchell’s 48-point performance led all scorers, but with Alston and junior forward Shayla Cooper having a tough time from the field, Mitchell had no choice but to attempt to put the team on her back down the stretch.
The Cincinnati native showcased her seemingly unlimited range and speed on the fast break, which she utilized to get to the basket and finish with contact. Mitchell is in the conversation for the national player of the year award, as she is averaging 24.5 points per game and continues to be the go-to option for the Buckeyes.
Powers, who is also a nominee for the player of the year award for the 2015-16 season, had an impressive all-around performance, despite being quiet in the first half as she struggled to find her groove from the start.
On Saturday, Powers showed that she can do it all, finishing with 23 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists.
Before their next game, the Buckeyes will have to play the waiting game to see which team they will be playing in their first game of the Big Ten conference tournament. They will also have to wait to learn their seed in the tournament. A win Saturday would’ve locked up the top seed and a share of the Big Ten title, but instead a Maryland win over Minnesota on Sunday would give the Terrapins the outright title.
Last year, OSU fell in the championship game of the tournament against that Maryland team, and it will look to flip the script this year in Indianapolis. Its quarterfinal matchup is set for Friday.