The WNBA Buckeye Report brings you updates throughout the WNBA season for former Ohio State Buckeyes playing in America’s top women’s basketball league. This week comes in a more somber tone, and this time not another complaint about a former All-American guard being snubbed for a WNBA All-Star spot for a fifth-straight season — but its close.
The Indiana Fever, Kelsey Mitchell’s team, are officially eliminated from the WNBA playoffs. After beginning the season with five wins in their first two months, the Fever are two games away from not winning a single contest in July. As the Chicago Skys and Las Vegas Aces of the world clinched their spot in the 2022 WNBA Playoffs, Mitchell and the Fever are left on the outside looking in.
Mitchell isn’t the reason for it, either. In the past two weeks, Mitchell’s averaged 17 points per game and 4.8 assists, including the guard’s best performance of the season on Sunday in Indiana. Against the Dallas Wings, Mitchell was a player possessed. In 35 minutes, Mitchell scored 34 points, added six rebounds and five assists. Those points were well distributed too.
All game, Mitchell was attacking the basket and stretching the Dallas defense. In the first quarter, Mitchell defied her 5-foot-8 frame and charged into the lane. Mitchell created five of those 34 points from the free throw line. When Mitchell wasn’t driving, she was shooting from deep. Mitchell hit three of six from beyond the arc on the way to her season high.
Unfortunately for Indiana, a fast start didn’t turn into a consistent performance for four quarters. Up six at the end of the first quarter, Dallas outscored the home side 61 to 38 in the second and third, ultimately winning 96-86. The performance is consistent with the Fever’s play this year, with Mitchell leading the team in scoring in 19 out of 30 games and leading in assists in 17.
While Mitchell adds never playing in a WNBA Playoff game to an All-Star snub, Ohio’s neighbor to the west has potential in the future. The Fever feature rookies NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo in the starting lineup, who have each grown through the year, and Mitchell still has one more season under contract with the Fever after signing a three-year deal in 2021.
With that contract, and Mitchell as the obvious star that Indiana is building around, next year is pivotal for the Fever to make a competitive leap.
Elsewhere in the world of former Buckeyes in the WNBA, the Seattle Storm’s Jantel Lavender returned to the court for the first time since July 7, with new center Tina Charles taking up minutes that Lavender occupied entering the month. Lavender scored four points in the Storm’s 16-point defeat at the hands of the Phoenix Mercury on July 22, and didn’t receive any minutes in Seattle’s next game on July 24.
Down in Las Vegas, former Buckeye turned Florida Gulf Coast transfer Kierstan Bell continues to receive inconsistent minutes in the forward’s first pro season. The Alliance, Ohio native’s seen time on the court in four games since the All-Star break, scoring seven points combined across under 22 combined minutes.