The No. 12 Ohio State women’s basketball team has put itself in position to win the Big Ten regular season title, beating No. 2 Maryland 98-87. Junior guard Kelsey Mitchell led all scorers with 31 points.
The Buckeyes have now won 10 straight games and gave Maryland its first loss since Dec. 29.
Although Mitchell was a major factor, the Buckeyes had five players scoring double digits. Senior forward Shayla Cooper had a special Senior Night outing, following Mitchell with 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Cooper had some colorful words for the great team play and the spreading of the ball on offense.
“When the ball is moving like that, it’s so beautiful it’s like orchestra out there. You know, like soft jazz music. It’s just so beautiful and everyone is feeling it, the coaches over there, ‘yeah.’ We’re over here like ‘yeah.’ It’s just a beautiful sight,” she said.
When the topic of senior night came up, coach Kevin McGuff said that it was special to see Cooper go out the way she did.
“I was really happy for Shayla to play so well on her Senior Night,” he said. “But she had some really big moments and got some tough rebounds for us down the stretch for us when we needed them.”
Cooper said the crowd affected her hot start, scoring 10 points in the first quarter.
“When the ball goes through the net, you just hear (the crowd) roaring, and it’s like ‘OK,’” she said. “And you see one drop, you see another one drop, and it’s like ‘hey, keep letting it rip.’”
The Buckeyes had an early boost from Cooper and Mitchell, both scoring double digits before the end of the first quarter. OSU hit 12-of-12 field goals near the end of the quarter, giving the Buckeyes a 35-22 lead.
The Terrapins picked up their rebounding in the second quarter, and outscored the Buckeyes in second-chance points 11 to 2. The Buckeyes were still able to get some good assists from Cooper throughout the quarter and ended the half leading the Terrapins 49-40.
In the middle of the third, momentum swung in OSU’s favor thanks to Mitchell’s transition offense and inside scoring. OSU found themselves in foul trouble with freshman forward Tori McCoy being called for her fourth foul with under a minute left in the third, which led to a Maryland 14-0 run, cutting OSU’s lead to 68-66.
The Buckeyes struggled to rebound in the fourth as McCoy fouled out halfway into the final quarter. Maryland took advantage in the post, putting up 20 offensive rebounds to OSU’s four. The Terps used this to their advantage, scoring 29 second-chance points.
However, with 1:30 left in play and leading by six, the Buckeyes stayed strong under pressure, hitting 4-of-7 free throws, giving the Buckeyes a 10-point lead. Maryland hit a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left to cut the lead back down to seven.
The last 30 seconds were decided by OSU’s free throws. The Buckeyes shot 50 percent from the line in the final 30 seconds of play, but were still able to pull out the win over the second-ranked team in the country.
Ohio State ended the game shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from 3-point range.
“Well when they shoot like that, they can go all the way,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese. “This is the best I’ve seen them.”
OSU will now face Rutgers (6-21, 3-11 Big Ten) in the final regular season game. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Feb. 26 in Piscataway, New Jersey.