Ohio State-Michigan women’s basketball games are nothing if not consistently close.
The eighth-ranked Buckeyes and No. 19 Wolverines entered Value City Arena having played each other in five straight games with a margin of nine points or fewer.
Tuesday made six, but the Wolverines took advantage of a cold Ohio State offense to send the Buckeyes to an 84-75 loss, snapping a nine-game winning streak.
The Buckeyes (16-3, 5-1 Big Ten) forced 21 turnovers but shot just 36.1 percent while allowing Michigan a 53.7-percent effort from the field and a plus-13 rebounding margin.
Ohio State's desire, forward Stephanie Mavunga said, also was outmatched by Michigan’s just nine days after the Buckeyes defeated the Wolverines 78-71 in overtime in Ann Arbor.
“I remember yelling, ‘We gotta want this. We gotta want this.’ It comes down to want,” Mavunga said. “Michigan is going down for loose balls, they’re beating us on the boards, and that’s just really embarrassing.”
A transition layup by Alexa Hart cut the Ohio State deficit to 75-70 with 3:53 to play, but Hallie Thome converted a three-point play on the other end to lift Michigan’s advantage to eight. Thome made two more free throws with 1:52 remaining and a layup with 1:08 to go to give Michigan an 82-72 lead, its largest of the game.
Mavunga led the Buckeyes in scoring for a second straight game, finishing with 21 points. Kelsey Mitchell added 20 and Linnae Harper 15. Thome, Katelynn Flaherty and Nicole Munger had 27, 21 and 20 for Michigan, respectively.
A layup by Thome put Michigan (16-4, 5-2) ahead 43-41 with 7:13 left in the third quarter, marking the first time this season the Buckeyes trailed in the second half of a game at Value City Arena.
“I don’t think we had the focus that we needed tonight to win,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “Just way too many mental errors against a good Michigan team, and when we would make mistakes they would make us pay.”
The Buckeyes found trouble in two forms early: Mitchell picked up her second foul not long after the midpoint of the first quarter, and Ohio State got lazy with its transition defense.
A sigh of relief in the form of Mitchell returning to the floor was quickly snatched away by Michigan's Kayla Robbins, who drew a Mitchell’s third foul with 5:49 left in the second quarter to again send the three-time All-America guard to the bench.
McGuff said the early fouls impacted the rhythm of both Mitchell and the team. “It’s something that she has got to learn to deal with, but (foul trouble) certainly can be problematic, that’s for sure.”
Mitchell played just 11 minutes in the first half but the Buckeyes led 41-36 after two quarters.
In the second half, Mitchell rose to No. 10 on the Division I career scoring list and tied the all-division record for career three-pointers with 441, but she couldn’t rescue the Buckeyes with a fourth-quarter spark as she did nine days ago.
With their streak snapped, the Buckeyes will start over with another game that also is likely to be close: Monday at No. 14 Maryland.