In a matchup of teams undefeated in early conference play, Ohio State overcame a shaky start to defeat Michigan, 96-87, in Columbus on Saturday afternoon.
The game featured two of the top perimeter scorers in the conference in the Buckeyes’ Kelsey Mitchell and Katelynn Flaherty of the Wolverines, and both players lived up to that billing. Mitchell scored 26 points in her usual variety of ways, while Flaherty made eight three-pointers, a program single game record, en route to a game-high 38.
Stephanie Mavunga added 12 points and nine rebounds for the home team, while Tori McCoy had 14 and eight and Shayla Cooper scored 13. Kiara Lewis and Linnae Harper were also in double figures as part of a balanced offensive attack.
Ohio State, which improved to 3-0 in the Big Ten and 14-4 overall, was able to overcome Michigan’s 13 made three-pointers and a sluggish 33 percent shooting performance of their own from deep. The Buckeyes did hold the Wolverines to just 43 percent shooting overall.
Ohio State had a nightmarish start to this one, making just one of its first seven shots and turning the ball over five times in the first quarter.
Michigan missed its first seven field goal attempts before Flaherty knocked down back-to-back three-pointers. The junior had 10 points in the frame, as the Wolverines sprinted out to an 11-point lead. The Buckeyes used a 9-0 run, punctuated by an and-one from Shayla Cooper to close out the period trailing just 21-20.
A Flaherty triple and long jumper punctuated an 8-0 Wolverine run to open the second quarter, as Ohio State continued to turn the ball over and fail to convert open looks. A pair of interior buckets from Mavunga and a three-point play by Makayla Waterman brought the Buckeyes back once again, though, and the Michigan lead stood at just 32-30 with four and a half minutes to go in the half.
Three-point makes by Mitchell and Lewis and a pair of putbacks by Mavunga and Harper contributed to a 15-3 run that gave Ohio State a 40-35 lead. When the clock went to zeroes, the advantage stood at 45-43, thanks to a three from the top of the key as the buzzer sounded by Flaherty.
Mitchell paced the Buckeyes with 14 points, shooting 5-for-9 from the field and knocking down two of her five three-point attempts. Harper added seven points and six rebounds in providing a spark off the bench.
Leading all scorers in the first twenty minutes was Flaherty, who bounced back from a four-game shooting slump to hit 7-of-13, including four from deep, for 18 points. Michigan was 8-for-15 beyond the arc as a team.
Ohio State came out after halftime attacking the paint, where there was a clear advantage. For the game, the Buckeyes outscored the Wolverines 52-32 in paint points and held a 47-34 rebound advantage. Mavunga made her presence felt, scoring six in the first five minutes, prompting a Michigan timeout as the scarlet and gray pushed out to a 55-49 lead.
The visitors refused to go away, with Flaherty splashing another three, but an and-one from Mitchell, made possible by a beautiful look from McCoy, and a floater in the lane by Cooper gave Ohio State its largest lead of the game at 62-52.
The lead remained at ten, 69-59, headed into the final stanza, but after a Lewis jumper, the Buckeyes suffered a scoring drought of two and a half minutes. The Wolverines finally got second-leading scorer Hallie Thome, a Chagrin Falls native, going down low, and cut the lead to 71-64.
Mitchell ended the drought with a deep three, and Cooper dropped three hoops in a row, but Thome and Flaherty kept Michigan in contact. But Michigan would never make another run, and Ohio State iced the game at the free throw line late.
Next up for the Buckeyes is a trip to East Lansing on Tuesday night for a battle with Michigan State. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on Big Ten Network.