Survive and Advance
It wasn't easy, but Ohio State survived a second-half surge from Kentucky to down the Wildcats 82-68 and advance to its second consecutive NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
The Buckeyes had a 19-point lead at the start of the second half, but Kentucky didn't quit, cutting the lead to just two points midway through the fourth quarter. Ohio State hung on, however, playing clean basketball down the stretch to seal an 82-68 win.
After averaging just 12 points her past two games, Kelsey Mitchell was on fire at the start of the game on Sunday afternoon, draining a three-pointer less than five seconds into the game. Mitchell scored 19 points in the first half before slowing down in second and finishing with 21.
|33-73 (45%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||25-73 (34%)|
|6-23 (26%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||3-17 (18%)|
|10-18 (56%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||15-19 (79%)|
Despite the early points, Mitchell was not Ohio State's MVP of the day. Playing against her former team, Linnae Harper was arguably the best all-around player on the court, especially down the stretch. She came off the bench and was just two assists shy of a triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
The difference in the game was depth. Kentucky plays a very tight rotation and got points from just six players while the Buckeyes had five players in double figures with nine players seeing meaningful minutes. Down the stretch, the Buckeyes just seemed to have more gas in the tank, and sealed the victory.
The one decisive advantage the Wildcats had was on the boards. Ohio State was without its top rebounder, Stephanie Mavunga, for the eighth-straight game and it showed. Kentucky's Evelyn Akhator dominated the boards, pulling down 23 rebounds.
The Buckeyes had their way in the first half, pushing tempo, getting open shots and hitting almost 50 percent from the field all while holding Kentucky under 30 percent from the field and Epps to just nine first-half points.
Ohio State extended its lead all the way to 19 points before the Wildcats went on a second-half run while holding Mitchell to just two third-quarter points, cutting the Buckeye lead to just seven points late in the third quarter.
The run continued in the fourth, as the Wildcats outscored the Buckeyes 7-1 to start the quarter, but Ohio State weathered the storm. The Buckeyes went on an 8-0 run midway through the quarter to retake control and finished with an 82-68 victory.
With the win, Ohio State advances to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 where it will face the winner of Sunday night's game between No. 1 seed Notre Dame and No. 9 seed Purdue on Friday in Lexington, Kentucky.