The No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-4, 1-0) knocked off Minnesota (9-5, 0-1) 87-62 on Wednesday night from the Value City Arena to open up Big Ten play for both teams. Throughout the game, Ohio State’s depth and athleticism kept the Golden Gophers at arms length, despite a gritty effort to keep the contest close at times.
OSU got substantive contributions from every player to step on the floor. Juniors Kelsey Mitchell and Linnae Harper led the way for OSU; 11 Buckeyes scored, but Mitchell was the game’s high scorer with 23 points to go along with six assists. Harper also turned in a double-double with 12 points and 12 boards.
The Gophers got the first bucket of the game, but after that opening basket, the first five minutes were dominated by the Buckeyes. With 4:40 left in the first quarter, Kelsey Mitchell hit the 299th three-pointer of her collegiate career to give OSU a 13-4 lead on the strength of an 11-0 run.
At that point, the Buckeyes were 5-10 from the field, and Minnesota was just 1-10, despite Gopher center Jessie Edwards making the first shot of the game.
After Minnesota converted on a pair of free throws, Mitchell took a deep three with 4:09 left in the first quarter to extend the lead to 16-6. The basket made her only the fifth player in Big Ten history to reach the milestone, and she wasn’t done just yet.
The Buckeyes’ athletic advantage was evident in the first quarter as they routinely scored off of their full-court pressure, and played with an impressive tempo on offense. The first 10 minutes of the game saw the Buckeyes hit five three-pointers on 10 attempts, including four from Mitchell, who was the game’s leading scorer with 12. After one quarter, Ohio State led 29-18.
The hot shooting for the Buckeyes continued into the second period as sophomore guard Sierra Calhoun hit a three from 23 feet to give the Buckeyes their biggest lead of the game, doubling up the Gophers 36-18. While OSU’s bench was outscoring their Minnesota counterparts 12-0 at that point, fouls were beginning to be a bit of a problem for the Buckeyes as three players (Tori McCoy, Stephanie Mavunga, and Shayla Cooper) had already picked up two a piece.
Throughout the first seven minutes of the second quarter, the Buckeyes maintained a substantial lead on the strength of their shooting and turnover advantage. The Gophers were shooting just 27.6% and had turned the ball over eight times, while OSU was shooting 40.5% and had only committed two turnovers.
However, with an increased defensive intensity, Minnesota went on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 40-29 after being down 38-18 earlier in the quarter. During the Gopher streak, OSU made only one of 17 field-goal attempts.
With just over a minute remaining in the half, a pair of free-throws from Minnesota’s Carlie Wagner cut the lead to single digits (42-33) for the first time since 2:52 in the first quarter. However, OSU’s Linnae Harper put back an airball rebound with 0:28 left, and then hit a jumper as time expired, to extend the Buckeye lead to 46-33.
At the break, Mitchell lead all scorers with 16, while Edwards led the way for Minnesota with 7. Three Buckeyes; Calhoun, Harper, and Makayla Waterman; turned in five first half rebounds.
Minnesota’s head coach, Marlene Stollings, who played two years at Ohio State before transferring to Ohio University, is still the leading scorer in Ohio High School Basketball history, male or female, with 3,514 points.
The second half opened with both teams coming out of the locker room slightly more sloppy than they had been in the first 20 minutes. Both teams had a pair of turnovers in the first 5:30, and both teams struggled from the floor; Minnesota was 2-11, and OSU was 3-9 in that stretch.
Ohio State re-established a 20-point lead by turning up the heat on defense, as it had done in the first 20 minutes. With three steals and two blocks in a minute and a half beginning around the 5:00-mark of the third quarter, the Buckeyes look a 59-39 lead. After three quarters, OSU lead Minnesota 16-3 in points off of turnovers, and led the game 65-43 with 10 minutes left to play.
With 6:45 left in the game, Minnesota lost one of its most productive players, as junior center Bryanna Fernstrom fouled out after turning in 12 points and 10 boards in 20 minutes off of the bench.
The only statistical category that went Minnesota’s way was rebounding. However, even though they edged the Buckeyes 56-55 on the boards, the Buckeyes outscored the Gophers 16-13 in second chance points, and led in points in the paint as well, 38-26.
Ohio State didn’t shoot particularly well (33-85, 34.6%), but they played fantastic defense, causing 24 turnovers, while only giving up 12. Kelsey Mitchell’s twin sister Chelsea also got her first points of the season, hitting both of her three-point attempts.
The OSU Women’s Basketball team returns to the hardwood on Saturday at 3 p.m. EST on the road against Indiana. The game will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network, and should be a great way get into the Buckeye spirit ahead of the Fiesta Bowl matchup against No. 2 Clemson.