Kelsey Mitchell released a three-point shot early in the second quarter and raced three steps back on defense before it sailed through the bottom of the net.
She briefly checked back mid-run to make sure the rim and net didn’t deceive her, but on a milestone night, the Ohio State senior guard didn’t have to.
Mitchell scored 34 points Friday in No. 9 Ohio State’s 104-62 rout of Florida Gulf Coast in the Play4Kay Showcase at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. She also made seven of her 11 three-point attempts to pass Connecticut’s Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (398) and move into first on the NCAA’s career three-point list with 402.
“That’s definitely an accomplishment,” Mitchell said of the record. “When it comes to setting the bar high and setting goals for yourself, things that you don’t even know are coming happen.”
The Buckeyes (6-1), who have won five straight, will face the winner of Belmont and Stanford in the tournament’s championship game at 11 p.m. Saturday.
The Eagles’ game plan called for a high volume of threes. They took 42 and had plenty of open looks but made just 14. FGCU (6-1) shot 34.9 percent for the game and appeared puzzled by the Buckeyes’ zone defense throughout the first quarter.
Florida Gulf Coast’s Nasran Ulel hit a three to tie the score 6-6 with 7:40 left in the first quarter. There weren’t too many positives after that for the Eagles, who missed 12 straight shots in the first quarter.
“I was pretty shocked myself,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t know we could play defense that well.”
Ohio State embarked on a 24-0 run led by three Mitchell threes and raced to a 58-34 halftime lead. The Buckeyes shot 62.2 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
“I don’t think they were expecting that (zone) and it allowed us to get off to a really good start,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “Offensively, we were very efficient making shots, and I think as the lead grew it put a lot of pressure on them.”
Mitchell hesitated for a moment to shake a defender before sinking the shot that tied her with Mosqueda-Lewis 7:12 into the game.
A night after scoring a career-high 35 points, senior forward Stephanie Mavunga again reached double figures with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Senior guard Linnae Harper pitched in with 17 points and Asia Doss had a team-high eight assists and four steals to add to her 10 points. Rosemarie Julien and Taylor Gradinjan each had 15 points for the Eagles.
Mitchell finished the first quarter with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting. She took just three shots — all beyond the three-point arc — in the second quarter and made all three to claim the three-point record for herself, and then some.
Now it’s hers to place further out of reach.