In a battle for supremacy in the Big Ten conference, the Ohio State women’s basketball team claimed its most complete win of the season against Maryland, the second-ranked team in the country, 98-87 on Monday night at Value City Arena in Columbus.
The Buckeyes are now in the driver’s seat for the conference regular season title, tied with the Terrapins at 14-1 in Big Ten play. The scarlet and gray also ran their winning streak to 10 games while breaking Maryland’s 14-game streak. The Terps had not lost in 2017 until this one.
Kelsey Mitchell notched her ninth consecutive game with at least 20 points, filling it up to the tune of 31 to go along with four rebounds and six assists in the biggest game of the year for Ohio State. Alexa Hart, Sierra Calhoun, and Linnae Harper were also in double figures.
On top of being such a crucial game to the conference picture, it was also senior night for the scarlet and gray. The squad’s lone senior, Shayla Cooper, was honored before the game and then turned in a memorable performance, scoring 20 points, grabbing nine rebounds, and dishing out five dimes.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones led the Terps, scoring 29 and 21, respectively. Destiny Slocum added 15 as well.
Both sides came out with nerves, combining to commit a handful of turnovers in the game’s first three minutes. Maryland got Jones and Walker-Kimbrough going, with the pair scoring the Terps’ first 16 points. Ohio State’s Cooper had the hot hand as well, scoring seven in the early going to keep the Buckeyes in contact, trailing 16-14 at the midway point in the first quarter.
Ohio State used 77.8 percent shooting (14-for-18) and Mitchell’s ability to get out in transition to make a 20-5 run. After her third layup on the run and her second make from beyond the arc in the frame, Maryland was forced to call a timeout suddenly trailing 30-19.
The Buckeyes made 12 straight shots from the field, with Mitchell and Cooper combining to score 25 points, and took a 35-22 lead after the a frenetic first ten minutes. Jones and Walker-Kimbrough scored 19 of the Terrapins’ points.
As scorching as Ohio State finished the first, though, it struggled to start the second. The Buckeyes turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions and committed four fouls in the first couple minutes of play.
Walker-Kimbrough knocked down her third triple of the game, and Kristen Confroy hit her first, but threes by Sierra Calhoun and Kiara Lewis kept the advantage at 45-32.
The frenetic pace continued, but both teams went cold, each experiencing a three-minute field goal drought. Ohio State turned the ball over seven times in the period, but Maryland coughed it up five, and the Buckeyes took a 49-40 lead into halftime.
Mitchell led all scorers with 15 points, but all of those came in the first quarter. Cooper added 12 of her own, and a team-high four rebounds. Both Jones and Walker-Kimbrough scored 13 for Maryland. Jones also led the Terps with five boards and three assists.
Out of the locker room, Maryland made four straight shots, punctuated by a driving layup from Destiny Slocum. But Ohio State withstood the attack, as Calhoun and Cooper both popped threes and Mitchell got to the rim for a layup. At the midway point of the third quarter, an Alexa Hart bucket gave the Buckeyes a 64-50 lead.
It was inevitable that the Terps would continue to make runs, and after the media timeout, they went on a 14-0 run that cut the deficit to 68-66. Slocum hit a pair of threes, Walker-Kimbrough completed an and-one, Confroy made a triple of her own, and Walker-Kimbrough got a driving layup, putting Ohio State back on its heels. The Buckeyes went scoreless for the last 3:38 of the quarter.
A layup by Lewis to start the fourth put an end to the drought, and the teams spent the first four minutes trading hoops. Maryland’s dominance on the glass was evident, though. Led by Jones, the Terrapins won the second chance points battle 29-5 and on the offensive boards 20-4 for the game.
With five minutes remaining in the game, Ohio State’s lead was still four points, 80-76, but a quick 6-0 burst pushed the lead back out to double digits with three minutes to play. The run was punctuated by a Hart fall away jumper as the shot clock expired that had head coach Kevin McGuff halfway out onto the court.
The Terps employed the “Hack-A-Hart” strategy, fouling the Buckeye junior intentionally with the score 90-84. Hart calmly knocked down both shots from the charity stripe, then went to the other end and swatted a shot. Free throws down the stretch iced the victory, running Ohio State’s regular season winning streak against Maryland to three games dating back to last season.
The Buckeyes will conclude the regular season schedule on Sunday in Piscataway, taking on Rutgers at 3:00 p.m. ET. The game will air live on ESPN2 against a Scarlet Knights squad that finds itself near the Big Ten cellar.