Women Go To Indy As Top Seed, Men Settle For Second Place
The Ohio State women rallied to win an outright Big Ten title while the men lost grip of first and had to settle for a second-place finish as the college basketball regular season came to an end on Sunday.
The difference: results against league rival Penn State. The women wiped out the Nittany Lions 89-64 in State College, Pa., on Sunday. Kelsey Mitchell again led the way with 22 points and six assists as Kevin McGuff’s squad clinched the top seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. OSU (24-6 overall and 13-3 in league play) won the Big Ten outright for the first time since 2010.
Meanwhile, Chris Holtmann’s surprisingly successful men’s team was swept by PSU – losing at home to the Lions on a last-second shot and slipping up in the road rematch, a 79-56 setback on Feb. 15.
Even so, there appears to equal enthusiasm going into the postseason.
The women head to Indianapolis on a roll and as the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament. And the 5-8 Mitchell is back on top of her game. On Monday, OSU’s all-time leading scorer was named the Big Ten Player of the Year for the third time. She also was first-team All-Big Ten for the fourth time.
Mitchell’s 22 points at Penn State enabled her to pass Brittney Griner for third place in NCAA history. Griner scored 3,283 points in her career at Baylor. Mitchell now has 3,286 career points. She also moved to fourth on school history in assists with 522. Kim Wilburn had 518 assists from 2003-06.
OSU is getting contributions from all over the court as well. In the blowout of Penn State, Stephanie Mavunga and Linnae Harper each notched double-doubles. Mavunga had 21 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks while Harper finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
Sierra Calhoun made three three-pointers and totaled nine points. Makayla Waterman chipped-in with eight points and six rebounds.
With the Buckeyes clicking, they produced a 12-2 run in the third period to open up a 59-32 lead midway through the quarter. That allowed them to cruise to the program’s 16th Big Ten title, the most of any school in the conference.
The top-seeded Buckeyes next play at on Friday (noon Eastern) against the winner of the 8-9 game.
Even though the men (24-7, 15-3) watched Michigan State edge Wisconsin on Sunday to win the ourtright crown, there is much to celebrate. The next day, star forward Keita Bates-Diop was named the Big Ten Player of the Year and Holtmann was tabbed Big Ten Coach of the Year – less than 12 full months are being tabbed Big East Coach of the Year in his last season at Butler.
Plus, the Buckeyes also have a double-bye before playing the winner of the 7-10 game in the quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Friday (6:30 p.m. Eastern, Big Ten Network).
The downside: OSU could have to face No. 7 Penn State yet again – that is if the Lions are able to get by 10-seed Northwestern. Or maybe that’s good news considering the Buckeyes knocked off every other conference team this season and owe a little payback to PSU.
If Ohio State can get past Friday play, a semifinal awaits on Saturday (4:30 p.m. Eastern, CBS). The championship game is set for the same time and station on Sunday, March 4.
Those Big Ten teams moving on to the NCAA Tournament – and the No. 13 Buckeyes certainly are in that group and project to be a 4- or 5-seed at the moment – will be afforded some extra rest as Selection Sunday is March 11 and those teams not assigned to Dayton will begin play in the Big Dance either March 15 or 16.