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Buckeyes in the WNBA Report: Week 2

The Seattle Storm are climbing, while the Indiana Fever are falling, plus an update on a Scarlet & Gray legend

Los Angeles Sparks v Seattle Storm Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Welcome to Week 2 of the WNBA Buckeyes Report. Each week, Land-Grant Holy Land­ brings you an update from the players in the WNBA that come from a growing history of Ohio State Women’s Basketball.

This weekly piece won’t focus solely on the exploits of Kelsey Mitchell and Jantel Lavender. It also gives you an update on former Buckeye WNBA pros and players from years past making an impact in professional basketball.

Jantel Lavender

As mentioned in week one’s report, Lavender joined the Seattle Storm for the 2022 season, the Cleveland native’s fourth team in 11 seasons. Lavender joined the Storm to play a veteran role off the bench, especially adding a defensive presence.

Lavender played a larger role to start the season, after COVID-19 and injuries put the role-player back in the starting lineup. In the WNBA’s second week, Lavender returned to bench player status, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t perform.

In two games played, Lavender and the Storm beat the Chicago Sky and Los Angeles Sparks, both teams Lavender suited up for in past seasons. On May 18, against the Sky, Lavender scored five and rebounded five in 11:46 on the court.

Seattle played the Sparks on May 20 for the first time since Lavender joined the Pacific Northwest side. Playing Los Angeles is always interesting, since Lavender spent eight seasons in the purple and yellow, where she had her best WNBA season.

In 2015, Lavender started all 34 games for the Sparks, earning her only WNBA All-Star appearance after averaging 14.5 points and 8.3 rebounds. A year later, Lavender didn’t start but still averaged almost 20 minutes per game in the Sparks championship season.

On Friday, Lavender scored four and assisted on two in Seattle’s victory. Both games were wins for the Storm, each by a three-point margin. Because of the two-game winning streak, Seattle sits in third place in the West, behind the Dallas Wings and Las Vegas Aces.

Kelsey Mitchell

The Indiana Fever’s difficult start to the season continued through week 2. Indiana lost three straight games in a four-game losing streak. After losing to the Atlanta Dream narrowly on May 15, Tuesday was a different story for the Fever and Mitchell.

In the second game against Atlanta, two days after Sunday’s defeat, Mitchell had a difficult first half, scoring no points. The second half wasn’t much better, although Mitchell reached five total points in the 101-79 defeat.

Indiana is a young team, featuring four first-round WNBA draft picks. Mitchell’s veteran performances are crucial if the Fever want to compete and avoid being at the bottom of the league at the end of the season.

On Friday, Mitchell recovered to the tune of 23 points and five assists versus the Connecticut Sun. The Fever lost, but only by nine this time, 94-85. Two days later, a similar story from the Atlanta Dream back-to-back emerged in the second of a back-to-back against the Sun. Mitchell scored five points again, this time splitting it between two points in the first half and three in the second.

As the Fever grow chemistry this season, Mitchell’s performances will likely gain consistency. Indiana starts two rookies in NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo, both Baylor University alums, which comes with rookie mistakes. Opponents know that Mitchell is dangerous, and the former Scarlet & Gray All-American garners a lot of defensive respect on the court. If Indiana’s rookies come into their own, it’ll open the floor for Mitchell.

Bonus Buckeyes

Las Vegas Aces Kierstan Bell, a former Buckeye who transferred to Florida Gulf Coast University, scored her first WNBA points in week two. Ball had two points in Las Vegas’ 100-80 victory on Saturday, May 21.

In Australia, 21/22 Ohio State conference champion Tanaya Beacham had eight points and eight assists against the Southern District Spartans. Beacham’s South Coast Phoenix won their fourth game of the season but are struggling with a 0-6 record.

A name synonymous with Ohio State Women’s Basketball is Katie Smith. Smith won the B1G Player of the Year in 2016, played in the WNBA on and off from 1999 to 2013, and is part of the WNBA’s 25th Anniversary Team.

On Jan. 12, 2022, Minnesota promoted Smith to Associate Head Coach, after holding a similar role with the New York Liberty before moving to head coach for the 2018 Liberty season. Before that, Smith assisted on the Lynx coaching staff since 2020.

Minnesota had a difficult start to the 2022 campaign, losing its first four. After making wholesale changes following the first week of the season, the Lynx won two out of four games, and are working towards getting back into the pack at the top.