The record books at Ohio State continue to be assaulted by Kelsey Mitchell. The sophomore guard broke the program record for an NCAA tournament game with 45 points in a hard-fought 88-81 win against West Virginia on Sunday at St. John Arena.
With the win, the Buckeyes have advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011 and will play the winner of Sunday night's game between second-seeded Arizona State and seventh-seeded Tennessee next Friday.
Senior Bria Holmes ended her career as a Mountaineer with a 21-point effort that gave her exactly 2,000 points in her four years.
Also of note, senior Ameryst Alston, who has been nursing a wrist injury since the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals, got on the floor and looked much closer to healthy. Alston scored just six points, but gave the team a visible lift.
Mitchell, junior Shayla Cooper, and senior Cait Craft each hit a three-pointer early, but Ohio State found itself trailing 17-13 at the midway point in the first quarter. Holmes scored her team's first five points, and the Mountaineers did a nice job of keeping the Buckeyes off the offensive glass.
Ohio State went the final 4:40 of the frame without a field goal, shooting just 31 percent from the floor. West Virginia, behind seven points from Big 12 Freshman of the Year Tynice Martin, held a 21-15 lead.
In the second quarter, Mitchell powered the Buckeyes to a 9-0 run, scoring six points in quick succession. A three from Holmes ended the Mountaineers scoring drought, though, and the game was knotted up, 24-24, with six and a half minutes remaining in the half.
After the media timeout, Alston got her first shot to drop in sixteen days. The senior from Canton McKinley High School helped spark a 17-4 run as Ohio State claimed a 32-24 lead with just over four minutes to go.
Holmes got it going to close out the quarter and West Virginia used a 13-2 run to move back in front, but a layup and a deep three by Mitchell sent the teams to the locker room all tied up, 39-39.
Mitchell led all scorers in the game's first twenty minutes with 20 points on an efficient 6-for-11 from the floor. Holmes paced the Mountaineers with 13 of her own.
The Buckeyes' full court defensive pressure began to pay dividends in the third quarter, as West Virginia turned the ball over and struggled to score. Mitchell got into the paint seemingly at will, scoring eight quick points as Ohio State began the second half on an 11-2 run to take a 50-41 lead.
A 10-4 run for the Mountaineers, punctuated by a three-pointer from the wing by Alexis Brewer, trimmed the lead to 54-51. Once again, Mitchell got to work, though, scoring six straight points. By the end of the third quarter, the Cincinnati native had already filled up the stat sheet to the tune of 37 points, tying the program's single game NCAA tournament record. The Buckeyes headed to the final quarter with a 67-60 advantage.
A free throw with 8:25 remaining in the game gave Mitchell the record. A no-look dime on the next possession to Craft for a corner three put Ohio State up 75-65. West Virginia continued to battle, though, and a corner three from Teanna Muldrow capped a 10-3 run to make it 78-75 with less than three minutes remaining.
The final three minutes were a mad scramble, with both teams pressing to finish strong. A key turnover by the Mountaineers with 20 seconds remaining, their 27th miscue of the game, gave Mitchell a breakaway layup to ice things.