The Ohio State women’s basketball team entered the Play4Kay Shootout upset with its defense and overall consistency after a narrow win over Washington on Sunday.
The cure: A weak Memphis team and a heavy dosage of forward Stephanie Mavunga.
The redshirt senior scored a career-high 35 points and added 16 rebounds Thursday as No. 9 Ohio State cruised to a 100-69 win over Memphis (1-4) at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The Buckeyes (5-1) will face Florida Gulf Coast at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Mavunga, who had 27 points in the first half, lauded others for her eye-popping 24 minutes: Ohio State’s coaches for drawing up a game plan taking advantage of a mismatch down low and the Buckeyes' guards for finding her.
“My teammates were just really finding me. All the credit to them,” Mavunga said. “I had no idea coming into the game it was going to end like this, I was just trying to get in there and do everything that I can to help my teammates come out with the victory.”
The Buckeyes set several milestones Thursday. Fifth-year coach Kevin McGuff earned his 100th win at Ohio State and senior Alexa Hart, an Africentric product, surpassed 1,000 career points.
Hart and fellow seniors Linnae Harper and Asia Doss each had 10 points. Brea Elmore led Memphis with 16.
Kelsey Mitchell, an Associated Press preseason All-America selection and a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year, finished with 20 points but spent much of the first half facilitating.
The senior guard took just one shot in the opening quarter, scored her first points 3:15 into the second quarter and completed the half with just five points. It was a sign, McGuff said, of a player being mature enough to recognize and feed Ohio State’s strength: Mavunga near the basket.
“That’s the mark of a true point guard, for sure,” he said.
Mavunga’s night could have ended with more points and rebounds. Instead, she and other Ohio State starters spent chunks of the third and fourth quarters resting. They’ll need it as the Buckeyes close out the tournament with two more games over the next two days.
“Three games and three days is a lot, and it takes a toll on the body,” Mavunga said. “We all know exactly what it is we came down here to do. It’s a business trip.”