In the hallowed halls of St. John Arena, the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes advanced to the second round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament thanks to a 87-45 win over the No. 14 George Washington Colonials on Saturday afternoon.
With the OHSAA Girl’s Basketball State finals happening at the Value City Arena, the OSU women had the opportunity to host the first two rounds of the tournament at the venerable arena, and they made the most of the home-court advantage, using an incredible team-effort to
After sitting out the Big Ten Tournament due to an ankle injury, Asia Doss returned to the court, putting up eight points in 22 of action. She also added four assists and three rebounds.
Early on, Ohio State senior forward Stephanie Mavunga helped pace the home-team, accounting for six of the Buckeyes’ first 10 points on the game. Despite the quick start, GW slowed down the pace of the game, eventually tying the score at 10 on a three-pointer by Mei-lyn Bautista. However, on the subsequent possession, OSU’s Makayla Waterman hit a deep two to give the Buckeyes back the early advantage. She tried to talk the officials into giving her credit for the three, but her effort was for naught.
With time running out in the first quarter, the third-highest scorer in NCAA women’s basketball history— Kelsey Mitchell— drained a three-pointer from well-beyond what would have been the NBA arc. The points were the first of the game for the three-time Big Ten Player of the Year, they would not be her last, but the Buckeye scoring was well-distributed against George Washington.
Mitchell’s 11 points on the game were her season-low, but she also had seven assists in the effort.
Mavunga ended the first period with eight of Ohio State’s 17 points, as they led GW, 17-12. Four other Buckeyes had a bucket apiece. Mavunga ended the game with 22, giving her the 17th double-digit scoring game of the season. With 13 boards, Mavunga has had a double-double in 9 of her last 12 games, and 18 on the season.
With their deliberate pace limiting their opportunities, the Colonials relied heavily on the three-point shot. Ten of their first 22 attempts came from distance, connecting on four. However, when on offense, the Buckeyes tried to play the exact opposite way as GW by running and attacking at every opportunity.
As the first half progressed, the Buckeyes’ pace allowed them to begin to pull away. The home team went on a 12-4 run to increase their lead to 34-22.
With just over a minute left in the first half, Doss got her first bucket since the regular season when she hit a triple from the top of the key. Mitchell got the assist on the play, one of her four in the first half.
GW’s Brianna Cummings hit a jumper in the lane as time expired in the first half, cutting the OSU lead to 39-27. Cummings finished the half leading the GW scoring with eight, followed by Neila Luma with seven.
For the Buckeyes, Mavunga dominated inside en route to 14 first-half points. Despite being the focus of intense defensive attention by the Colonials, Mitchell was still able to manage nine points in the half. All seven Buckeyes that saw action in the first 20 minutes scored.
Despite the Buckeyes’ insistence on pushing the ball whenever possible, they were still able to maintain a cohesive team approach. Of their 15 field goals before halftime, OSU recorded an assist on nine of them.
Alexa Hart opened the second-half scoring for the Buckeyes with a baby hook-shot in the lane. On the next offensive possession Mavunga collected a rebound and completed an old-fashioned three-point play to stretch the Buckeye lead to 44-27.
With eight minutes to go in the third quarter Mitchell missed three consecutive free-throws after being hacked, thanks to a GW lane violation. However, a little more than a minute later, she found a streaking Hart for a layup, pushing the lead to 19 on the strength of a 7-0 spirt to open the half.
On the first possession following a timeout, Hart continued to make the most of her increased playing time due to the Doss injury. First, she found Mavunga on a slipped screen for a layup, then Hart got a lay-in of her own. The Buckeyes went up 50-27 for their largest lead of the game. Ohio State would end up scoring the first 11 points of the half before Luma got the Colonials back on the board.
After a timeout, George Washington coach Jennifer Rizzotti installed a 2-3 zone on the defensive end of the floor. It resulted in a handful of OSU miscues, but as the Buckeyes began to adjust, the offense started attacking the weaknesses in the zone. Doss found Hart with a great pass inside for the layup, and then hit a three-pointer of her own to push the lead to 57-34.
With just under a minute to play in the third quarter, Jensen Caretti stole the ball for OSU, and on her way to the ground pushed the ball to Doss who got the basket, and then Caretti hit a pull-up jumper to give the Buckeyes a 30-point lead, 64-34, going into the final quarter of play.
Mitchell got into double-figures thanks to a pull-up jumper from the foul-line extended. She was the fourth Buckeye to eclipse 10 points. In addition, Sierra Calhoun finished with nine, and Doss had eight.
With 4:26 remaining in the game, OSU head coach Kevin McGuff called timeout and made substitutions, getting his starters out of the game. However, the Buckeye scoring didn’t end there, as Savitha Jayaraman, Karlie Cronin, and Waterman both hit jumpers (the latter of the three-point variety) to give the Buckeyes a 42-point lead, 87-45.
The basket by Cronin was her first of the season, and everyone on the bench celebrated the occasion with the enthusiasm it deserved.
The Buckeyes show 55.9 percent from the field (33-59) while holding GW to just 27.3 percent (18-66), whole nearly doubling their rebounding total 51 to 26.
The Buckeyes advance to play the No. 11 Central Michigan Chippewas, who upset No. 6 LSU in the tournament’s opening round. OSU and CMU will return to the court on Monday, March 19.