No. 12 Ohio State Downs No. 2 Maryland 98-87 to Thanks to a 35-Point First Quarter

By Kevin Harrish on February 20, 2017 at 8:59 pm
Kelsey Mitchell led the Buckeyes past No. 2 Maryland.

The No. 2 Maryland Terrapins entered Columbus as the three-time defending Big Ten regular-season champions – they left with their third-straight loss to Ohio State.

The Buckeyes played their best game of the season when they needed it most and downed the Terrapins 98-87 behind a 35-point first quarter. The victory allows Ohio State to take the lead in the Big Ten title race.

Teams 1 2 3 4 Final
Ohio State 35 14 19 30 98
Maryland 22 18 26 21 87

The win was a big one, the biggest of the season and perhaps the biggest of Kevin McGuff's career at Ohio State. It was so big that the ever-modest Kelsey Mitchell even (kind of) admitted it.

"It's not that this is the end or not that we've actually won something, but you do kind of feel relieved that you finally – not accomplished something like, great but accomplished something great at the same time," Mitchell said after the game. "It's a sigh of relief for ourselves, for our team, for individuals, for you guys – you finally see us do something good for a change."

The Buckeyes were missing their top rebounder and second-leading scorer with Stephanie Mavunga out for the foreseeable future with a foot injury. Ohio State missed her, as the team was dominated on the boards and in the paint, but hot shooting from a high-powered offense provided enough of a spark to get the victory.

98 POINTS 87
36-57 (65%) FGM-FGA (PCT.) 33-79 (42%)
10-18 (56%) 3PM-3PA (PCT.) 10-30 (33%)
16-25 (64%) FTM-FTA (PCT.) 11-15 (73%)

To nobody's surprise, the star for the Buckeyes was Mitchell. The team's leading scorer never left the court and put up a game-high 31-points and five assists to lead Ohio State to perhaps its biggest win in her Buckeye career.

She wasn't alone, however. Shayla Cooper, the team's lone senior, had an enormous game on senior night. She scored 20 points – 10 of which came in the first quarter – pulled down nine boards and had five assists.

"I just felt good throughout the game," Cooper said. "They kept passing me the ball and 'hand down, man down,' that's what I've heard. So I let it rip."

Cooper said the big night brought out the confidence.

"The crowd was amazing, and when the ball goes through the net you just hear them roaring, and it's like 'OK,'" Cooper said. "You see one drop, you see another drop and then it's just like, 'hey, let it rip.,"

Alexa Hart, Sierra Calhoun and Linnae Harper were each in double figures as well, helping the Buckeyes outscore the nation's highest scoring team. 

Ohio State opened the game by playing its best quarter of basketball this season. The Buckeyes shot 78 percent from the field, 83 percent from behind the arc and put up 35 points in the quarter all while holding the nation's highest-scoring team to just 22 points.

The first quarter was some of the smoothest, fast-paced basketball you'll ever see, from both teams. Maryland showed why its the No. 2 team in the country with its precision passing and perfect spacing while Mitchell and Cooper put on an offensive clinic, shooting a combined 9-for-11 from the field and 5-for-6 from three for 25 points.

"When the ball's moving like that, it's so beautiful," Cooper said after the game. "It's like an orchestra. It's like soft jazz music; it's just so beautiful."

The scoring calmed down a bit in the second, if only because it couldn't get more insane. The Buckeyes only managed 14 points in the quarter and a few turnovers allowed Maryland to climb back into the game. Ohio State's lead was cut to just 49-40.

The Buckeyes came alive again in the third quarter, but only momentarily. Ohio State saw its largest lead, 16 points, midway through the quarter, but Maryland countered with a 14-0 run to close out the quarter. The teams entered the fourth separated by just two points, 68-66.

Ohio State didn't break, though and never allowed Maryland to take the lead in the second half. The team crashed the boards and hit vital foul shots down the stretch to lock up its biggest win of the season and put it in a great position to win its first conference title since 2009-10.

"That's the part I'm most proud about," Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said of the team's response to Maryland's 14-0 run. "Because had plenty of opportunity to go away after they made that impressive run."

The victory gives Ohio State a strong edge in the Big Ten race. At 14-1 in conference play, the Buckeyes are tied with Maryland for the top spot in the standings but own the tie-breaker with the head-to-head victory.

Ohio State faces Rutgers on Sunday at 3 p.m. With a win, the Buckeyes will clinch a Big Ten regular-season title and the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

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