When Ohio State's 18-point second-half lead evaporated to just 61-59 with under six minutes to play in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game, the Buckeyes turned to the best player on the court, and she delivered.
Maryland erased a comfortable Buckeye lead with a 12-2 fourth-quarter run. The Terrapins seemingly had all the momentum and were verge of taking a late-game lead at a pivotal moment in a huge game – then Kelsey Mitchell stopped them in their tracks.
Coming off an Ohio State timeout, Mitchell took a hand-off pass from Alexa Hart and nailed a clutch step-back three, halting surging Maryland and giving Ohio State a two-possession lead once again – which it never relinquished, topping Maryland 79-69.
“It’s what she gave me," Mitchell said of the shot. "At that point it was one-on-one. She was leaning, and when they’re leaning, you’ve got to step back somewhere."
It's a shot you don't want most players taking, given the circumstances, but most players aren't Kelsey Mitchell. If she can create space, the light is green for her to let it fly.
"That's where we want the ball," Head coach Kevin McGuff said after the game. "Whether we win or we lose, I can live with it with her shooting, because I have that much confidence in her."
“If you feel like you’ve got a chance to make a play, make it."– Kelsey Mitchell
Just minutes later, Mitchell confidently drilled another three, stretching the Buckeye lead to eight points, which quickly turned into 10 after a Linnae Harper steal. As quickly as Maryland climbed back, the Buckeyes put it out of reach, thanks to Mitchell's clutch shooting.
Ohio State's star was at her best when it mattered most. Mitchell scored 12 of the team's 22 fourth-quarter points, shooting 75 percent from the field and a perfect 4-for-4 from the line, to bury the Terps and lock up Ohio State's first Big Ten Tournament title since 2011.
“I’m not going to say I just tried to put the team on my shoulders, not at all," Mitchell said after the game. "But every body talks about what you do. You’ve got to make a play, and I felt like I had to make a play.”
Mitchell said she doesn't necessarily feel like it's her role to carry the team down the stretch, but she's not going to stand idly by while the opposing team makes a run during crunch time.
“If you feel like you’ve got a chance to make a play, make it," Mitchell said.
Thankfully for Ohio State, she made it. And with the NCAA Tournament coming up, the Buckeyes will undoubtably look for her to make more.