Ohio State women’s basketball claimed its fourth victory in a row, outlasting Minnesota 88-76 at the Barn in Minneapolis to run its conference record to 8-1.
Junior All-American Kelsey Mitchell led the 15th-ranked Buckeyes with 25 points, while Shayla Cooper came alive with 18 of her own, and Stephanie Mavunga turned in a double-double with 13 points and 16 rebounds.
In the losing effort, the Gophers’ Carlie Wagner scored a game-high 34 points, as her team fell to 2-6 in Big Ten play.
This one had an ugly start to it, with Ohio State making just two of its first seven shots and Minnesota having a scoring drought of over three minutes. By the midway point in the first quarter, the Buckeyes held a slim 7-6 lead.
Ohio State shot 6-for-15 total in the period, and failed to connect on any of its five three-point attempts. The Buckeyes also turned the ball over six times. The Gophers, meanwhile, turned it over five times and went 0-for-3 from beyond the arc, but with four points apiece from Jessie Edwards and Wagner, claimed a 14-13 lead after ten minutes of play.
The two sides put their sluggish starts behind them to open the second quarter, with 15 combined points scored in the first 2:15. Ohio State made seven of its first nine shots in the frame, jumping out to a 29-24 lead, and after Mitchell hit her second triple, that lead grew to 32-24 and prompted a Minnesota timeout.
A furious pace continued throughout the quarter, with both teams getting up and down the court. Another scoring drought for the Gophers, this one lasting two and a half minutes, allowed the Buckeyes to claim their largest lead to that point at 37-29.
The advantage for the scarlet and gray would remain at eight heading into the locker room, 39-31. That number could have been much larger were it not for a field goal drought covering the final three minutes of the half for Ohio State.
Mitchell had nine of her 11 first half points in the second quarter, and led all scorers through twenty minutes of play. Wagner led Minnesota with 10 points of her own, though she shot 0-for-5 from three-point range.
The icy shooting of the first quarter returned to start the third, as the Buckeyes and Gophers combined to miss their first seven shots. A jumper by Gadiva Hubbard of Minnesota finally put an end to the streak, and after Wagner connected on a pair of free throws and a jumper, the lead had been cut to 41-37.
The free throws seemed to ignite Wagner, who by the midway point in the period had already scored eight, keeping the home team in close contact, down 47-43. Cooper found a rhythm of her own, scoring six points in quick succession, and after a pair of free throw makes by Kiara Lewis, Ohio State had pushed the lead back out to eight at 51-43.
Both teams heated up down the third quarter stretch, combining to hit seven of the final ten shots attempted, and making their way to the fourth quarter with the Buckeyes in front 62-56. Wagner almost singlehandedly kept it that close, scoring 13 in the quarter for the Gophers.
A Wagner three in the early going of the fourth pulled Minnesota to within three points at 64-61, but Mitchell found her stroke from the outside, hitting a jumper and a pair of three-pointers as Ohio State took a 76-66 lead with just over five minutes remaining.
The Buckeyes made six straight field goals, executing during crunch time the way a team needs to in order to earn a road win, but Wagner would not go down without a fight. The junior hit a pair of threes to draw her squad to within 78-72 with four and a half minutes to go, but a field goal drought of better than four minutes would ultimately seal the Gophers’ fate and give Ohio State the victory.
Up next, the Buckeyes return to Columbus to host Nebraska on Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for 12 p.m. ET, and the game will be broadcast live on Big Ten Network.