Last week’s WNBA Buckeye Report was a downer, due to former Ohio State All-American Kelsey Mitchell being left off the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game roster, but the games on the court continued. Mitchell and two other former Buckeyes saw time on the court and one of the three achieved a career milestone.
Here’s the week that was for Buckeyes in America’s top women’s basketball league.
Mitchell dominates this weekly report. The former Buckeyes guard plays the most minutes and contributes the most in her games. Last week’s contests are no different.
Playing in the final week of June, Mitchell ended the month strong. While the Indiana Fever lost all three of their games last week, all by double-digits, Mitchell tried to lift the Fever single-handedly. On a three-game West Coast trip, Mitchell scored 22 and 21 respectively in games on Monday and Wednesday against the Phoenix Mercury.
In Monday’s matchup, Mitchell led the Fever in points, as usual, and Indiana entered halftime with a manageable deficit of four points. Unfortunately for Indiana, Mitchell was the only Fever player to muster double-digit points in the second half in an eventual 12-point defeat.
Wednesday it didn’t end any better. Mitchell led everyone on the floor with 14 points, but the Fever faltered to an even worse 21-point loss to All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith and the Mercury. Mitchell closed June out averaging 18.8 points and 4.4 assists per game, better than her season average to date. Only once did Mitchell fail to reach double figures in points, scoring nine against the Connecticut Sun on June 8.
Indiana closed out their four-game away stretch in Seattle, against fellow former Buckeye Jantel Lavender and the Storm. Maybe it was the tough schedule of road games, or frustration mounting, but the final game of the week came July 1, where Mitchell had her worst game of the season. Playing only 25 minutes, Mitchell scored three points and had one assist. While defensively Mitchell grabbed three steals, six turnovers negated the increased defensive presence and Indiana remains in the cellar of the WNBA losing 73-57 to the Storm.
Last week, Land-Grant Holy Land talked about Lavender potentially losing minutes with Seattle signing former WNBA MVP Tina Charles, after the forward mutually ended her contract with the Mercury. In Seattle’s three games of week eight of the season, Lavender’s minutes off the bench remained consistent.
Lavender played just over eight minutes in a 10-point victory over the Las Vegas Aces at home, where Lavender scored three and had three rebounds. In the Lavender and Mitchell matchup, the forward only scored two points but added six rebounds, two on the offensive end.
Seattle won their first two games, at home, by at least 10 points, then they traveled to face a healthy Atlanta Dream. Over the past few weeks, Atlanta’s been without three starters but by the time Lavender and the Storm came to town, the Dream was close to 100%. Lavender scored eight points on top of three rebounds in a 14-point road defeat to the Dream. Those eight points are the most Lavender has scored since she scored 12 in a double-double performance on May 29.
Former Florida Gulf Coast forward, who transferred out of the Ohio State program in April of 2020, has struggled to get into the mix with a competitive Las Vegas Aces team. On June 27, injuries on the Aces roster thrust Bell into the starting roster for the first time in the rookie’s young professional career.
With guards Chelsea Gray and Riquana Williams out, Bell played the most minutes of the season, 15:48, but took only two shots. Bell missed both but added a steal and rebound in a six-point victory over the Los Angeles Sparks.
Bell played just under six minutes on Sunday, back in a bench role. The guard again had no points on two shots, but what’s more concerning is in a game that the Aces eventually lost by 31 points to the Minnesota Lynx, Bell didn’t receive substantial minutes or make an impact. It’s normally one-sided games like Sunday’s where rookies have a chance to show their worth to a team. For Bell, it’s an opportunity missed.