The South Carolina Gamecocks used a balanced attack of defense and rebounding to down the Ohio State women’s basketball team 92-80 on Monday evening in Columbus, serving as the Gamecocks’ second win over the Buckeyes in as many years.
OSU presented more depth to the Gamecocks than what it had when they played in Columbia, South Carolina, a year ago, but the Buckeyes could not overcome the size and athleticism that the Gamecocks brought onto the floor.
South Carolina junior guard Kaela Davis led all scorers with 37 points on 10-for-21 shooting, and added 10 rebounds and five assists. Junior guard Allisha Gray also paced the Gamecocks with 24 points and seven boards.
“Our defense wasn’t up to par,” OSU coach Kevin McGuff said. “You’re playing a great team like South Carolina; if you’re not going to defend, you’re not going to have a chance to win.”
Despite the increased depth for the Buckeyes this year, OSU managed just four points off the bench.
“I think that was a lack of execution,” McGuff said. “They are going to make you pay when you don’t execute.”
OSU redshirt junior Stephanie Mavunga claimed the opening tip before South Carolina jumped out to an early 6-0 lead. The Buckeyes fought back to take an 18-17 advantage into the second quarter despite being out-rebounded 20-9 in the quarter, thanks in part to just 26.3 percent shooting from the Gamecocks.
South Carolina would fare better in the second quarter, going 10-for-19 from the field to take a 44-39 lead into the break. At the half, Davis led all scorers with 15 points, while junior guard Kelsey Mitchell had a team-high 13 for the Buckeyes.
“We were fine defensively to start the game, but we kind of got caught in between,” McGuff said. “We wanted to press, but we weren’t really committed to pressuring, so that really didn’t service like I thought it could have.”
Back-and-forth scoring consuming the third period, with the Gamecocks edging the Buckeyes 23-20 in the frame. Trailing by eight to begin the final quarter, the Buckeyes scored four quick points to cut the score to 67-63, but a 10-0 run gave South Carolina its largest lead of 14 with 5:14 remaining. The Buckeyes couldn’t climb back from there.
“They came and brought it,” Mitchell said.
Whistles were heard early and often throughout the game. The Buckeyes committed 29 team fouls, with Mavunga and freshman forward Tori McCoy fouling out. Mitchell and junior guard Asia Doss each collected four personal fouls.
The calls noticeably knocked OSU off its up-tempo offense and allowed South Carolina to bury 26 free throws in 41 attempts.
“Coach McGuff always says, ‘focus on what you can control,’” Mitchell said. “Down the stretch … there were some things that we couldn’t control.”
The Gamecocks committed 22 team fouls and OSU cashed in with a 17-for-24 night at the free throw line. Junior forward A’ja Wilson fouled out for South Carolina.
Mitchell gets back on track
After a slow start to the season, OSU junior guard Kelsey Mitchell got back on track with a team-high 27 points on 9-for-20 shooting and a 6-for-7 mark at the free throw line.
The Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year managed just 11 points in OSU’s exhibition win over Ashland University and 18 points in the Buckeyes’ season opener against Duquesne, shooting a combined 11-for-37 from the field. Despite her improved play on Monday, South Carolina kept Mitchell from taking over the game.
The Buckeyes will now look towards a matchup with the Cleveland State Vikings on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Schottenstein Center.
McGuff agreed that the quick turnaround is a good thing for the Buckeyes.
“We need to get back at it,” McGuff said. “If you aren’t hungry to get back on the court and get better, you’re not going anywhere anyways.”