The Ohio State women's basketball team's quest to win its first Big Ten regular season title since 2010 hit a big snag on Saturday in East Lansing, as the Buckeyes fell to Michigan State, 107-105, in three overtimes in the final conference game of the season. The team will now have to wait and hope that Minnesota, which beat Ohio State in a wild game on Wednesday night, can knock off Maryland on Sunday.
Sophomore Kelsey Mitchell was huge after halftime, scoring 38 of her career-high 48 points and refusing to allow Ohio State to give in. Mitchell led all scorers with 15-for-29 shooting on a day when the Buckeyes' offense was disjointed and committed 25 turnovers.
Senior Jasmine Hines, playing on her senior day for the Spartans, put up a career-high 36 points to go along with 11 rebounds for the home side, while junior Aerial Powers added 23 points, 16 boards, and nine assists.
With Ohio State's ball security issues and Michigan State's paint dominance, this was an evenly-matched game from the very beginning. Mitchell and fellow sophomore Asia Doss led the charge in the first half, scoring 10 points and 12 points respectively against a Spartans' zone defense that demanded perimeter shooting.
But the Buckeyes scored just five points in the final 6:55 of the second quarter, and Michigan State capitalized. Hines was a load down low, scoring 17 points as the first twenty minutes ended with a 34-34 tie. This was a theme that would continue throughout the game.
The second half was played to a draw as well, with Ohio State's turnovers continuing to plague them. Mitchell did all she could to keep the scarlet and gray in the game, scoring or assisting on the Buckeyes final seven points in regulation.
A three minute scoring drought for Ohio State and the tandem of Hines and Powers never let the game get out of hand, and things were all tied up at 72 at the end of the fourth quarter.
In the extra time, Mitchell continued to orchestrate the offense, splashing her fifth three-pointer of the game, making a pair of free throws, and hitting senior Ameryst Alston for a wide-open three of her own. After Powers and Hines refused to roll over, giving Michigan State an 81-80 lead, Mitchell hit another three for a two-point lead.
With seven seconds remaining, the Spartans tied it up on another Hines bucket, and a second overtime was on its way.
Alston gave Ohio State a three point lead with an and-one to start the second overtime, and sophomore Alexa Hart split back to back pairs of free throws to give the Buckeyes an 88-84 lead with just over two minutes to go.
A Mitchell layup in transition gave her 40 points for the game and a 90-86 Ohio State advantage with a minute left. After a Hines bucket, Doss got a steal and layup, but sophomore Branndais Agee knocked down a big three-pointer to draw Michigan State back to within 92-91 with under 30 seconds remaining.
Alston sunk two free throws after the Spartans fouled to extend the game, and the lead was 94-91, but Jankoska made a desperation three on the other end to tie things back up. A third overtime was in the offing.
In the final five minutes, Hines and junior Tori Jankoska, who finished with 20 points, were just too much for a Buckeye team that found itself shorthanded with three players fouling out. Despite Mitchell's efforts, Michigan State came out on top.
Ohio State finished the regular season 15-3 in Big Ten play, 23-6 overall. If Minnesota can dispatch Maryland tomorrow, the Buckeyes will take the top seed in next week's Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. If the Terps come away with the win, the team will fall to the No. 2 seed.