The Lady Buckeyes improved to 11-3, leaving Indiana behind with a strong second half finish.
Columbus – They may be the most overlooked #5-ranked team in the country, and the Ohio State Lady Buckeyes couldn’t care less.
To a man (or woman) they’ll tell you their focus is simply to play well, at the start, or eventually…and eventually is how they pounded Indiana Thursday night, 97-70.
They overcame a slow start, shooting just 38% for the first half. National sensation, and sparkplug, Kelsey Mitchell struggled with her shot for the third consecutive game. She scored just eight points for the half on 2 of 10 shooting from the half.
But good teams bring help, and there was help. Shayla Cooper picked up the slack, scoring 14 first half points, and they turned up the defensive intensity on an Indiana team that came out hot from behind the 3-point line. The Hoosiers connected on 4 of their first 6 long-range attempts.
“We had to pick up the intensity after the first quarter,” said Cooper, who finished (with Mitchell) with a co-team high 23 points. “And we got after it on the offensive boards. When shots aren’t falling you have to get rebounds and all the 50-50 balls you can. After their fast start we had to put more pressure on the ball and took advantage of second-chance points. That was the difference until the offense got going.”
The offense ‘got’ going in the second half, outscoring the Hoosiers 57-35 to cruise throughout most of the fourth quarter. Center Alex Hart made sure of it, scoring 10 of her 18 points in the final ten minutes.
“Obviously, I thought we played a good first half,” said Indiana coach Teri Moren. “But we couldn’t sustain that in the second half. Ohio State didn’t have a great shooting night, but they hit enough big three-pointers in big spots in the second half to hurt us.”
After their 38% first half, the Buckeyes rebounded to shoot 50.2% for the second half, and 7 of 10 from 3-point range. Mitchell, the nation’s top freshman and leading scorer last year, went 3 for 3 from deep to ignite the run, and finished with 23 points to tie Cooper for game honors. Alexa Hart’s 18 was a significant complement.
Indiana had four players finish in double figures…Amanda Cahill (from Clyde, Oh, with 17), Jenn Anderson (14), Jess Walter (11), and Tyra Buss (team-high 19).
“You just have to keep shootin’,” Mitchell said afterwards, grinning. “I haven’t shot it well for the past three games, but you have to keep shooting. Eventually it comes around. Putting pressure on the ball and causing some turnovers helped. Our quickness was the advantage against their size and that helped us get into the offense better.”
Indiana turned the ball of 16 times, compared to just 6 for the Buckeyes.
“I don’t like the slow start, but we have the confidence now to come back from that,” said Buckeyes coach Kevin McGuff. “We know we’re going to get some runs if we stay sound on defense, and we played faster and imposed our will on them in the second half.
“Indiana (9-7) played well in the first half, so we changed up some things, mixed our pressure, and it helped us get going. ”
Their 27-point win punctuated the latest national rankings that have the Buckeyes sitting 5th in the country, a point of pride within the program, but no one’s losing their head over it.
“Personally, I’m not into the rankings,” said Mitchell, who played all but three minutes of the game. “We just show up and play every night. The Big Ten is a tough league and anyone can lose on any night. You just have to come out and play.”
“It’s nice, but all it does is put a bigger target on your back,” added Shayla Cooper. “It just makes you play harder every night.”
While Mitchell and Cooper shared team honors, Ameryst Alston added 14 points, and in all, nine different Buckeyes scored. Their 57 points in the second half was their most impressive offensive half of the year to date.
And as for the rankings, after impressive wins now over the likes of Michigan State and Maryland, Kevin McGuff simply shakes his head and looks beyond the headlines.
“It’s early,” he cautioned. “We really haven’t talked about rankings because when you get caught up in that stuff someone’s gonna’ come along and punch you in the mouth.”
Rutgers gets that opportunity Sunday afternoon with a 2:00 pm appearance at Value City Arena.
And if you haven’t seen them, it wouldn’t hurt to take the time to watch the incredible floor game and quick 3-point release of Kelsey Mitchell.
You might be impressed at the offensive balance from Cooper, Alston, Alexa Hart, Asia Doss, and Cait Craft.
They have a target on their back. They’re going to play hard every night. You’re gonna’ get your money’s worth.
Kelsey Mitchell’s smile is all the guarantee you need.
(Edited By Julie McMaken Wright)