Ohio State women’s basketball was able to stay competitive for just a half with Connecticut, the top-ranked team in the country and winner of the last four national championships. The Buckeyes fell to the Huskies, 82-63, at the XL Center in Hartford on Monday night.
Ohio State had a four-game winning streak snapped, falling to 9-4 on the season, with all four defeats coming against ranked opponents. The Buckeyes have just one more game, on Wednesday in Columbus against Winthrop, before Big Ten play begins.
This UConn team is “rebuilding” after seeing Brianna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck taken with the top three picks in last spring’s WNBA draft. The Huskies, who featured just a six-player rotation, improved to 10-0 on the season, and have now won 85 consecutive games.
Kelsey Mitchell paced Ohio State with 23 points, but the Buckeyes simply couldn’t keep up in the second half, being outscored 42-29.
Stephanie Mavunga finished with a double-double, scoring 13 points and pulling down 15 rebounds, and Shayla Cooper added 15 points of her own.
Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier led Connecticut, scoring 26 and 27, respectively.
Ohio State looked tight and tentative at the outset, turning the ball over five times in the first quarter and falling behind by 12 points. UConn put together runs of 8-0 and 9-0, with Samuelson, Kia Nurse, and Gabby Williams each scoring five points in the quarter.
Mitchell was held in check early, but turned things on, punctuating a seven-point frame with a 25-footer as time in the quarter expired.
Cooper also had seven, as the Buckeyes closed out on a 9-0 run, and trailed 19-16.
The teams went back and forth in the second period, with neither able to establish an upper hand. But a 9-0 run by the Huskies over just a minute of play with Mitchell sitting on the bench, capped by a Samuelson three-pointer with a hand in her face, pushed the lead out to 37-24.
Mitchell got back on the floor and abruptly scored eight straight points, pulling Ohio State back to within 40-34 heading into the locker room. The sixth-leading scorer in the country, she finished the first half with a game-high 19 points.
Cooper added nine, while Mavunga had four points and seven rebounds.
The Buckeyes started cold in the third quarter, and UConn got five quick points from Napheesa Collier. Samuelson then buried a pair of triples, giving the Huskies a 55-41 lead.
Mavunga scored five points in the period, but Mitchell was limited to just two, as Ohio State shot just 31.6 percent from the field, turned the ball over seven times, and found themselves down 70-48 with one quarter to go.
UConn missed its first seven shots of the fourth frame, but Ohio State failed to make a any sort of dent in the lead, going more than four minutes without scoring. The Buckeyes finished off with a minor flourish, though, hitting six of their final nine shots, but it was far too little, too late.