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Women’s Basketball: Ohio State to defend home court against George Washington in NCAA tournament first round

Ohio State redshirt junior guard Sierra Calhoun attempts a shot during the Buckeyes’ game against Minnesota in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament on March 3, 2018. Ohio State won 90-88 to advance to the championship. Credit: Alyssia Graves | Assistant Sports Director

Big Ten tournament and outright regular-season champion Ohio State will begin its final stretch of games with a core group of seniors when it returns home to face No. 14 George Washington in the first round of the NCAA tournament at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at St. John Arena.

The Buckeyes begin the tournament as the No. 3 seed in the Spokane region, winning 11 of its past 12 games.

The Colonials claimed an outright bid to the tournament following their Atlantic 10 tournament championship win. They have won seven of their past eight games, including a victory against Dayton, which was 15-1 in conference play this season.

George Washington average just 60.2 points per game, good for just 275th in the nation out of 349 teams. The team only has two players who average double-digit points: senior guard Brianna Cummings and senior forward Kelli Prange. Cummings leads the team in scoring with 14.1 points per game, and Prange is second with 12.2 points.

Ohio State is on the other end of the spectrum, averaging the fourth-most points per game in the nation at 85.1. Though the Colonials have not been a prolific offense this season, they can rely on their defense that has limited opponents to 57.6 points per game, 43rd-fewest in the country.

Big-time players are expected to show up come tournament play, and that will have to be the case for the Buckeyes. Ohio State will need major contributions from senior guard Kelsey Mitchell and redshirt senior forward Stephanie Mavunga given the lack of depth on the team and uncertainty of production from other players on the roster.

Mitchell is averaging the third-most points in the nation at 24.5 per game, while Mavunga is averaging 16.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. It’s important for both to play efficient in order For the Buckeyes to make a run to the Final Four, which is held at home in Columbus.

Mitchell is just 31 points away from securing sole possession of second place on the all-time scoring leaderboard in women’s college basketball history.

The winner of this matchup would ace the winner of the game between No. 6 seed LSU and No. 11 seed Central Michigan on Monday in Columbus.

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