ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A day before his Ohio State women's basketball team began a stretch of five games in which it would play four games against ranked opponents, coach Kevin McGuff said he would learn a lot about the focus and mental fortitude of his team.
The No. 10 Buckeyes left Michigan’s Crisler Center on Sunday still in the thick of its toughest stretch of conference play, but with a hard-earned confidence boost.
Ohio State slugged it out with No. 22 Michigan for 45 minutes in front of a loud 8,313, but the Buckeyes sank three key shots and made several important stops on defense in overtime to cement a 78-71 win. It was their eighth straight victory.
Senior guard Kelsey Mitchell scored a deep, contested three from the wing to open the overtime period and went strong to the basket with 3:53 left to give Ohio State a 69-66 lead. After a Katelynn Flaherty free throw, redshirt junior guard Sierra Calhoun hit a corner three and Mitchell followed with another layup to give the Buckeyes a 74-67 lead with 2:52 to play.
Michigan (13-4, 2-2 Big Ten) didn’t get any closer than five points down the stretch, as the Buckeyes (15-2, 4-0) outscored the Wolverines 14-7 in the overtime period to finish a game McGuff said Ohio State would not have won a month ago.
“With the struggles we had at times on offense, I don’t think our defense would have been good enough to keep us in it (a month ago), but we’ve improved in that area,” he said. “I think ultimately that’s what allowed us to win this game today.”
Mitchell finished with 37 points on 14-of-26 shooting, leaving her two points shy of 3,000 for her career.
“We’ll talk about that when we get there,” Mitchell said with a laugh. “Cool?”
Drawing a foul with 1:34 remaining in overtime, Mitchell collided with the basket support, lightly spraining her ankle and hitting her head. McGuff said she should be fine for Ohio State’s next game Saturday at Indiana.
Calhoun had 17 points and Linnae Harper 12. Hallie Thome and Flaherty finished with 27 and 22 points, respectively, to lead the Wolverines.
Michigan’s Nicole Munger hit a corner three with 4:14 left in regulation to give Michigan a 61-60 lead, and a pair of Mitchell free throws made it 62-61 with 3:05 remaining. Neither team scored for two minutes before Flaherty brought the arena to its loudest with a three from the wing with a minute remaining to make it 64-62.
Mitchell said she got a finger on Flaherty’s shot but still watched it sail through the net.
“I was like, ‘No!’ ” Mitchell said. “If she’s gonna step back that far and she hits that, that’s a good shooter right there.”
Surviving 20 lead changes and a six-point second quarter, the Buckeyes kept their win streak alive and did so with clutch shooting and defense they can draw upon in future games.
“Our confidence never wavered,” Calhoun said. “We just stuck together. I had Kelsey’s back, Linnae had my back, we just had each other’s back throughout the game.”