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Women’s Basketball: Kelsey Mitchell era ends with stunning 95-78 loss to Central Michigan in NCAA tournament

Central Michigan redshirt freshman guard Micaela Kelly shoots a layup during the first quarter of the Chippewas’ win against Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA tournament at St. John Arena on March 19. Credit: Colin Hass-Hill | Sports Editor

In a stunning upset, the third-seeded Ohio State women’s basketball team fell 95-78 to 11th-seeded Central Michigan Monday in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Along with the loss comes the final game for five seniors on the Buckeyes’ roster, including senior guard Kelsey Mitchell.

The only silver lining for Ohio State came when Mitchell scored her 20th point with 6:59 remaining in the fourth quarter, which moved her into second place all-time in NCAA women’s history for career scoring. Mitchell struggled to find her shot all night, finishing with 28 points on 11-of-29 shooting.

Central Michigan’s 14 3-pointers and 25 made free throws played a huge part in its victory. Along with its relentless defense that held the Buckeyes to just 40 percent shooting, Central Michigan ensured nothing went right for Buckeyes during their final game.

Central Michigan fell behind after the first quarter, but blew the door off with a 25-6 second quarter. After a 15-9 Ohio State first quarter lead, the Chippewas went on a 14-0 run to start the second quarter. The Buckeyes did not score their first second-quarter field goal until there was three minutes remaining.

“I thought for a stretch there we got really good shots,” head coach Kevin McGuff said. “We missed probably four layups at the beginning of the second quarter, shots that we normally make. Then we just didn’t handle it very well cause I think we let that spill over to the defensive end. We lost a bit of focus and intensity.”

Senior guard Cassie Breen and junior guard Presley Hudson combined for 19 of the Central Michigan’s 25 points in the quarter. Breen’s 12 points came in all sorts of fashion. She went 3-for-4 from the field, making 2-of-3 shots from 3s, and made all three attempts from the free-throw line.

As is often the trend with the Buckeyes, when Mitchell struggled, so too did Ohio State. Mitchell shot 2-of-8 in the second quarter with her team finishing the quarter 2-of-13 from the field — with six turnovers on top. Redshirt senior forward Stephanie Mavunga couldn’t find any offense either, shooting 1-of-3 and splitting a pair of free throws.

It didn’t get any better in the third quarter with Central Michigan’s onslaught continuing. Any glimmer of hope vanished when the Buckeyes were outscored 33-25 in the third quarter. Central Michigan’s seven 3-pointers put the game away for good, for it maintained a 67-46 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“We tried to play hard and compete,” Mavunga said. “Central Michigan did a good job capitalizing off of our mistakes. we had a lot of turnovers which is really unlike us. That really showed, it hurt us down the stretch. We had good possessions here and there, but Central Michigan did a good job capitalizing off what we did wrong.”

Central Michigan held the lead throughout the fourth quarter, even with a valiant push from the Buckeyes. Senior forward Tinara Moore’s 20 points, along with Breen’s 22 and Hudson’s 28 points were enough to sustain its lead throughout the game.

Ohio State finished Mitchell’s final season as both Big Ten regular season and tournament champions, posting a 28-7 overall and 13-3 conference record.

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