In a battle for the top of the Big Ten standings, Ohio State women's basketball rode the hot hand of sophomore Kelsey Mitchell to beat 5th-ranked Maryland on Monday night, 94-86, in Columbus.
The Buckeyes, ranked seventh in the country, are now in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten. The win pushed their record to 11-1 in conference play, 19-4 overall. The Terrapins fell to 10-2 in the Big Ten, and are 21-3 for the season.
Ohio State, which defeated Maryland, 80-71, in College Park back on January 2nd, used the same formula of full-court pressure defense and a frenetic pace to pull off another win against a national power.
The Buckeyes jumped out to a 7-0 lead right off the bat, prompting a timeout by the Terps. Mitchell, the nation's fourth-leading scorer, got things going with a blur of a layup in transition that resulted in an and-one. Buckets by sophomore Asia Doss and senior Ameryst Alston kept the momentum going in the first two and a half minutes of play.
Alston put on a show from there, dropping a trio of three-pointers on consecutive possessions, and leading all scorers with 11 points in the first ten minutes, en route to a 24-19 lead. Maryland turned the ball over nine times, but was able to keep in contact thanks to sophomore Kristen Confroy's eight points and a 14-4 rebounding edge.
The Terrapins advantage on the glass continued to wear Ohio State down. After senior Tierney Pfirman knocked down a pair of threes, the lead had been whittled to 31-29. But junior Shayla Cooper drilled one from beyond the arc and Mitchell rattled home a jumper for a five-point lead at the quarter's midpoint.
Mitchell then caught fire, scoring seven consecutive points for the Buckeyes. The Cincinnati native led all scorers in the first half with 18 points, including 3-for-5 from three-point range.
Alston scored just twice in the second quarter, for a 13-point half, and Cooper added seven points, five rebounds, and some much-needed toughness in the paint, as Ohio State took a 47-40 lead to the locker room.
Pfirman led Maryland with 10 points off the bench, while junior Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, the team's leading scorer at 19.5 points per game, was held to seven first half points on 3-for-9 shooting as the Terrapins turned it over 13 times.
Mitchell and Alston continued to get things done on the offensive end in the third quarter, as the pair scored the first seven points of the half for the Buckeyes. Maryland would not go away, however, as Walker-Kimbrough stole the ball on consecutive possessions and trimmed the lead to 54-51.
Alston answered with another triple, her fourth of the game, then a sweeping layup after redshirt freshman Makayla Waterman ripped the ball away from Walker-Kimbrough, and a beautiful dime on the dribble drive to sophomore Alexa Hart for a layup. Doss knocked down a three-pointer to cap a lightning-quick 10-0 run, giving Ohio State its biggest lead of the game at 64-51.
Doss made another from deep and Hart got a pair of buckets in the paint as the Terps just couldn't get into anything approaching their normal offensive flow, falling behind 75-61 heading to the final ten minutes.
Junior Brionna Jones, the team's second-leading scorer at 14.6 points a night, was the lone bright spot in the third quarter for Maryland, scoring eight points. But another seven turnovers were a constant source of frustration.
Transition layups on a back-to-back possessions by Mitchell welcomed the Terrapins to the fourth quarter and pushed the lead out to 79-63, but a pair of threes by Pfirman made it a 10-point game with just under six minutes remaining.
A big jumper by Mitchell and a couple of free throws by Cooper helped keep things at a double-digit lead, but it was clear the Buckeyes would have to fight to the very end to secure a win. Confroy made her third three-pointer, but Mitchell knocked down a pair from the charity stripe and Maryland turned it over again with just over two minutes to go. Ohio State was able to hold on from there.
Mitchell led all scorers with 33 points, while Alston scored 22 and dished out eight assists and Hart scored 17. Cooper had a double-double off the bench, scoring 11 points and grabbing a team-high 10 boards.
Jones paced the Terrapins with 28 points and 11 rebounds, while Pfirman had 16 and Walker-Kimbrough added 14.
Up next, the Buckeyes travel to Iowa for a Thursday night game against the Hawkeyes. The game tips off at 8:30 p.m. ET and will air live on BTN.