Just one month ago, the odds were stacked against the No. 14 Ohio State women’s basketball team. Having lost three-straight games to Michigan, Iowa, and No. 13 Maryland, the Buckeyes sat two games behind the conference-leading Terrapins.
But Ohio State took advantage of Maryland’s unexpected three-game losing streak down the stretch and a weak end-of-season schedule to finish the season with eight conference wins in a row, concluding with an 89-64 victory against Penn State on the road Sunday afternoon, to claim the outright Big Ten regular-season championship.
The Buckeyes had not claimed sole possession of a regular-season title since 2010. The win against the Nittany Lions (15-14, 6-10 Big Ten) also gives Ohio State (24-6, 13-3 Big Ten) the top seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.
Once again, Ohio State rode its high-scoring trio of guards Kelsey Mitchell and Linnae Harper and forward Stephanie Mavunga to victory. Mitchell led the team with 22 points and the three players combined for 60 points. She added six assists and five rebounds.
Mitchell and Mavunga combined for 15 first-quarter points to pull the Buckeyes ahead 23-12 after the opening quarter. Penn State sophomore guard Jaida Travascio-Green hit the first shot of the second quarter, a 3-pointer to pull her team within eight points. But the Nittany Lions fell behind by 10 points after a Mavunga layup less than three minutes later and trailed by double-digits the remainder of the game.
Mavunga had a double-double by halftime and finished the game with 21 points and 14 rebounds. She made 9-of-11 shots and helped give her team a 40-28 edge in points in the paint.
Harper had 17 points and 10 rebounds. She, along with the rest of her team, shot well from beyond the arc. Harper hit 3-of-4 triples and the Buckeyes combined to shoot 10-for-22 from 3-point range.
Junior guard Teniya Page and sophomore guard Jaida Travascio-Green paced the Nittany Lions with 19 and 17 points, respectively. Travascio-Green made 6-of-11 shots, but the team overall struggled to knock down shots and combined to shoot 38 percent from the field.
The Buckeyes, who start four guards and just one post player, have been haunted by rebounding issues the entire season. But they cleaned up on the class, holding a 48-29 rebound advantage against Penn State, which had the worst rebounding margin in the conference entering the game. Ohio State had more offensive rebounds (18) than the Nittany Lions had defensive rebounds (17).
Ohio State’s win sweeps the season series against Penn State. The Buckeyes beat the Nittany Lions 94-64 at home on Jan. 31.
Ohio State will begin Big Ten tournament play at noon Friday. Its opponent will be the winner of Thursday’s game pitting the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds against each other. Purdue is the eighth seed, but the ninth seed has yet to be determined.