Sophomore Kelsey Mitchell wasted no time in getting her team going against Michigan in Ann Arbor on Thursday night. The Big Ten's leading scorer shot 6-for-7 from the floor in the first quarter, scoring 15 points, and pushing Ohio State out to a 31-17 lead. The Buckeyes had just enough after that to hold on for a 97-93 win.
"Overall, a great win," head coach Kevin McGuff said after the game. "It's always tough to win on the road in the Big Ten."
Ohio State, which fell to No. 7 in the AP poll this week, improved to 6-1 in conference play, 14-4 overall. The Wolverines fell below .500 in the Big Ten at 3-4, 11-7 overall.
The plan for Michigan was apparent from the get-go, as its own Kelsey Mitchell, a senior, and freshman Hallie Thome were fed the ball in the post repeatedly in the early going. The pair accounted for 10 first quarter points.
By contrast, Ohio State looked to run as much as possible and get going from beyond the three-point line in the halfcourt, using full-court defensive pressure to force seven first quarter turnovers. Mitchell's scoring, coupled with steals on back-to-back inbounds passes by sophomore Asia Doss, sparked a 19-2 run in the middle of the quarter, en route to a 31-17 lead.
The Wolverines were able to climb back into things in the second quarter, as the Buckeyes endured a four minute scoring drought. Sophomore Katelynn Flaherty, the third-leading scorer in the Big Ten, and senior Madison Ristovski combined for 12 points, and the deficit was cut in half, 49-42.
Mitchell led all scorers with 20 points on 8-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-5 beyond the arc, in the first half, while Doss added nine of her own on 4-for-4 shooting. The other Mitchell paced Michigan, scoring 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Flaherty, who started 1-for-7 from the floor, scored nine.
A pair of three-pointers by Doss and one by senior Cait Craft on Ohio State's first three possessions pushed the lead back out to 12 early in the third quarter, but Flaherty brought the Wolverines back to within five midway through.
Junior Shayla Cooper scored nine points and brought down four rebounds in the quarter, ensuring that Michigan was kept at bay. Cooper, who had a double-double with 25 points and 13 boards in the game, dropped in a short jumper with one second left for a 72-62 lead.
The Buckeyes failed to score through the first nearly three minutes of the fourth quarter, and the Wolverines pulled back to within six points after a Flaherty three-pointer. But the frontcourt tandem of Cooper and sophomore Alexa Hart, who scored 10 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and blocked four shots, were solid and kept Ohio State in front.
Despite one last-ditch rally by Michigan, the scarlet and gray was able to hold on. Cooper, Alston, and Mitchell made ten free throws in the final two minutes to ice things.
Mitchell was limited to just seven points in the second half, but still led five Ohio State players in double figures with 27. Doss had her best offensive game of the season, scoring 15 points.
Flaherty recovered from that rough first quarter to lead four Michigan double figure scorers with 22 points. Thome added a double-double of her own with 21 points and 12 boards.
Up next, the Buckeyes travel to Piscataway for a Sunday afternoon matchup with Rutgers. The game tips off at 3:00 p.m. ET, and will air on ESPN2.