The No. 12 Ohio State women’s basketball team ended its three-game losing streak by defeating Michigan State 78-62 Saturday afternoon at the Schottenstein Center.
A strong fourth quarter propelled the Buckeyes (17-5, 6-3 Big Ten) to victory behind 12-of-14 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from 3-point range. Ohio State limited Michigan State (14-8, 4-5 Big Ten) to just 7-for-21 shooting in the fourth and forced three turnovers.
Senior guard Kelsey Mitchell entered the game averaging 24.9 points per game and needing just 18 points to become the all-time leading Big Ten scorer. Mitchell surpassed that mark with 2:41 left in the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer from the left corner. Mitchell finished the game with a team-high 23 points.
Although Mitchell reached an incredible milestone, she said stopping the losing streak was more important.
“Honestly, it’s like a lift off your shoulders when you know you went 0-3,” Mitchell said. “As a basketball player, even as a player no matter the sport, you just feel like crap. Only because you go as hard as you can. But on the flip side of things, I got a chance to lace up, get it right, and that’s where our team’s mindset was.”
The Buckeyes could not manage a basket over the last 2:31 of the first quarter, but they held a 16-15 lead due to solid defense that limited the Spartans to 33 percent shooting in the opening quarter.
The second quarter began slow, but Ohio State went on a 7-0 run midway through the quarter that helped the home team take a 26-20 lead. The run did not last long, however. Ohio State allowed Michigan State to get back into the game, scoring just two points in the next four minutes. But senior guard Asia Doss hit a 3-pointer to give the Buckeyes a 32-29 lead entering halftime.
The Buckeyes created separation due in part to dominant play from Mitchell, redshirt senior forward Stephanie Mavunga and senior guard Linnae Harper in the fourth. Harper scored 22 points and had a game-high 10 rebounds, while Mavunga added 20 points and nine rebounds.
Harper extended Ohio State’s 53-51 lead with 8:28 to go in the game by scoring two buckets and igniting a 15-1 run during a three minute stretch to gain a 68-52 advantage with 5:04 remaining.
Ohio State pushed its lead even further with back-to-back 3-pointers from Mitchell which extended their lead by 20 and ending the Spartans’ comeback hopes.
Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said he kept his advice prior to the fourth quarter beginning simple.
“Keep playing defense. I thought we were getting good shots, but we just had to make sure we kept playing defense,” McGuff said. “We also got more baskets in transitions which is easier to do when you’re getting stops and steals. I just think it was the ability, sustained effort and execution on the defensive end which ultimately put us in position to win the game.”
The Spartans were held under 20 points in each quarter, and only three players on the team scored double digits. Junior center Jenna Allen finished with a team-high 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting.