With his team fatigued from playing its third game in three nights and discouraged from trailing for much of the night Saturday, Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff delivered a reminder or two during breaks: Stanford, too, is tired.
On a night when it struggled with its shot for three quarters, Ohio State found the space and poise it needed late, rallying from 12 points down to defeat Stanford 94-82 in overtime and win the Play4Kay Showcase at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
The ninth-ranked Buckeyes (7-1) won their sixth straight and notched their second win over No. 14 Stanford (4-3) in 16 days.
“When we got late in the game, I told them, ‘They’re tired. We’re going to continue to attack them and we’re going to get great shots,’” McGuff said.
In an effort to remove some of senior guard Kelsey Mitchell’s ball-handling burden, Asia Doss took the ball up the floor for much of overtime and provided an offensive punch. The senior opened the overtime period with a three-point play and delivered Ohio State’s first seven points to give the Buckeyes an 83-82 lead with 2:32 remaining.
A Stephanie Mavunga layup pushed the lead to three and a Sierra Calhoun three-pointer made it 88-82 Ohio State with 1:14 to play.
Mitchell put the finishing touches on the game and a masterful performance from the free-throw line, sinking six straight free throws to finish the night 19 for 20 from the line. She led the Buckeyes with 37 points on 8-of-22 shooting in 42 minutes. Twenty of her points came in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“One of the important keys was we were getting Kelsey to the line a lot,” McGuff said. “We were getting the right person there, so that was cool. We were certainly very efficient from the line and we needed every one.”
A late offensive push and Mitchell’s accuracy from the line helped rescue the Buckeyes in a game in which they otherwise fell short. For the better part of three quarters, Ohio State, perhaps due to fatigue, settled for contested shots and failed to replicate the movement and extra passing it showcased in back-to-back 40-plus point wins on Thursday and Friday.
The Buckeyes struggled in the paint against Stanford’s Alanna Smith, who finished with 33 points and 16 rebounds, and in closing out on the perimeter against Anna Wilson, who scored 21 points while missing just one of her eight three-point attempts.
After racing to two fast starts against Memphis and Florida Gulf Coast, the Buckeyes were sluggish early, spotting Stanford leads of 9-0 in the first quarter, 29-19 midway through the second and 48-36 midway through the third. Stanford held a 58-49 advantage to start the fourth quarter.
The night after breaking the NCAA Division I record for career three pointers, Mitchell needed until six seconds into the fourth quarter Saturday to get her first three. Doss followed with a three on the Buckeyes’ next possession to make it 58-55, but a pair of Wilson threes extended the Cardinal lead to 64-57 with 7:34 to play.
Mitchell provided seven points over an 11-2 Ohio State run to give the Buckeyes a 70-66 lead with 3:59 remaining. She nailed a 17-foot jump shot with 6.4 seconds left to put Ohio State ahead by two before Smith countered with a layup on the other end that pushed the game into overtime tied at 76.
Ohio State shot just 42 percent and missed 18 of its 26 three-point attempts, but found a way to win an ugly game. Sierra Calhoun had 15 points after taking a cut just above her left eyebrow in the first quarter. Doss had 15, Harper scored 12 points and hauled in 11 rebounds and Mavunga had 10 points.
“We were tired tonight and we didn’t play well for three quarters and Stanford played very well,” McGuff said. “But I think what it’ll teach us is if we’ll stick together and continue to fight, we’ll have a chance every game, even if we get down.”
Following a long-awaited rest, that next fight will come Thursday at No. 16 Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.