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Women’s Basketball: Ohio State tops Maryland 79-69 to win Big Ten tournament championship

Ohio State senior guard Kelsey Mitchell drives down the lane during the Big Ten tournament championship game against Maryland on March 4, 2018 in Indianapolis. Credit: Alyssia Graves: Assistant Sports Director

INDIANAPOLIS — Three years after Ohio State lost by three points to Maryland in the Big Ten tournament championship, the Buckeyes found redemption in this year’s title game.

After staving off a late comeback attempt from Maryland after its 18-point third quarter lead dwindled to two points, Ohio State  claimed a 79-69 victory against the Terrapins Sunday to win the Big Ten tournament championship. The Buckeyes also secured a regular season conference title after they won their final eight Big Ten games.

With Maryland (27-7, 12-4 Big Ten) cutting the lead to two points, Ohio State senior guard Kelsey Mitchell nailed a 3-pointer with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter to lift an offense that couldn’t manage a basket. Mitchell provided life to the Buckeyes (27-6, 13-3 Big Ten) when it was desperately needed.

A couple minutes later, Mitchell did it again. Sizing up her defender, she confidently steps into the 3-pointer giving the Buckeyes a 70-62 lead with just 2:54 remaining in the game. Mitchell finished the game with 25 points.

“I’m just taking what the defenders give me, I’ve always been played a different kind of way,” Mitchell said. “Two come at you, at that point it was 1-on-1, [the defender] was leaning, when you got them leaning you gotta step back somewhere and I just took that and went with it. It wasn’t like that the whole game because at first it was zone, sending two at me. I took what was there and I went with it.”

As for Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff, there wasn’t any question in mind that the ball was going to be in Mitchell’s hands.

“Well, I mean, that’s where we want the ball,” “McGuff said. “Whether we win or we lose, I can live with it, with her shooting, because I have that much confidence in her.”

The closes it got was to two, from Ohio State never looked back as they claimed their first Big Ten tournament title since 2011.

A 12-2 run to close out the third quarter cut Ohio State’s 13-point halftime lead to just eight. The Buckeyes struggled to find any offense, shooting 6-of-18 and turning the ball over four times in the third quarter. Maryland tightened up their defense coming out of the half, pressing at every opportunity.

Freshman guard Kaila Charles and senior guard Kristen Confroy were pivotal to Maryland’s run. Charles ended the games with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Confroy had 17 points and made 5 3-pointers.

Redshirt senior Linnae Harper provided a huge spark early in the game for an Ohio State team that looked flat offensively.  A 19-3 second-quarter run helped Ohio State take a 44-31 lead heading into the second half. She had 10 points and nine rebounds in the opening half and finished with 14 points and 11 boards.

Harper’s impact was not only shown in the box score. But as a result, Ohio State outscored Maryland 27-9 in the second quarter.

“Honestly, I think it just started on defense,” Harper said.  “Just trying to bring a lot of energy on that side of the court or whatever, and just trying to bring some energy and effort to our team, and everybody played hard and just trying to bring something to the table.”

The Buckeyes dominated the glass in the first half, ending it with a 30-19 rebounding advantage, including 14 offensive rebounds. But by the end of the game, Maryland evened the rebounding battle at 44.

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