Women Set To Tangle With UK At Rupp

By Jeff Rapp, March 18th, 2017

While the Ohio State men’s basketball team missed out on the Madness, the OSU women still have a bright outlook after another win over a postseason good-luck charm: Western Kentucky.

Prior to their NCAA Tournament first-round game on St. Patrick’s Day, the Buckeyes and Hilltoppers had met twice previously, and each time OSU won en route to a run in the postseason.

The first meeting came in the 1993 Sweet 16, which the Buckeyes won 86-73 on their way to finishing as national runner-up. The second was during the 2001 WNIT. Ohio State also won that encounter, 70-61, and would go on to win that WNIT in its only appearance in the event.

On Friday, OSU posted a 70-63 win over Western Kentucky at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington to advance to the second round. The 5th-seeded Buckeyes will take on 4-seed Kentucky at famed Rupp Arena on Sunday (12:05 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2).

In taking down WKU, three Buckeyes reached double figures in scoring. Kelsey Mitchell led the way with 15 points, although that was eight points below the All-America guard’s season scoring average. She was held below 20 points for just the second time in the last 12 games.

Asia Doss matched Mitchell with 15 points, a season high, and added six assists. Freshman center Tori McCoy contributed a dozen points. Meanwhile, Shayla Cooper hauled in 15 rebounds, a new season high for the senior.

Kendall Noble led Western with 19 points and 12 rebounds, although she was just 7 of 22 from the floor.

The Buckeyes played without center Stephanie Mavunga (foot) for the seventh straight game but head coach Kevin McGuff has not ruled out the possibility of her returning to the court during the tournament. At the time of her injury, Mavunga was atop the Big Ten and ranked seventh in the country in rebounding at 11.3 boards per game.

It was a tight first half of basketball, with eight lead changes in the first 20 minutes of play. It wasn’t until the final stages of the second quarter that Ohio State was able to put some distance between itself and Western Kentucky.

A three-pointer at the 3:57 mark produced a 28-27 lead for 12-seed WKU, but it would be the final time all afternoon it would hold a lead. Ohio State proceeded to go on a 10-2 run to end the first half, heading into the locker room with a 37-30 lead.

The Buckeyes were able to hold onto their lead for the rest of the second half, shooting 8 of 15 from the field in the fourth quarter to keep the Hilltoppers at bay.

Mitchell made 3 of 7 shots from beyond the arc in the game to bring her to just two three-pointers away from the Big Ten’s all-time career record.

Ohio State improved to 26-6 on the season and won for the 17th time in its last 18 games. The only blip on the radar was a Big Ten Tournament semifinal loss to Purdue, one of four conference teams to make the NCAA field.

Western Kentucky (27-7) had its 12-game winning streak snapped.

Ohio State was playing in its 50th game all-time in the NCAA Tournament and improved to 27-23 in the event. The Buckeyes will be vying to make the Sweet 16 for the 11th time in program history. They made it at least that far from1985-89, 1993, 2005, 2009, 2011 and last year.

OSU has been to the Elite Eight three times (1985, 1987, 1993).

The Buckeyes, who shared the Big Ten regular-season title with Maryland, entered the NCAA Tournament ranked 11th in the latest AP poll and 10th in the coaches poll.