Kelsey Mitchell walked off the St. John Arena floor Monday night as the No. 2 career scorer in women’s college basketball history, but that didn’t mean much to her at that moment.
“We lost,” she said. “That’s all I can say.”
Ohio State, the No. 3 seed in the Spokane Regional, had just been blown out by No. 11 Central Michigan 95-78. The Mid-American Conference champion — coming off an upset Saturday of No. 6 LSU in its first-ever NCAA Tournament win — kept right on rolling toward Spokane, Washington, where it will take on No. 2 Oregon on Saturday.
>> Video: Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell, Kevin McGuff after loss to CMU
As lopsided as the result was, it also was a come-from-behind effort. The Buckeyes and Mitchell jumped to a 15-5 lead by 2:13 of the first quarter. The Chippewas went on a 20-1 run, eventually took a 34-21 halftime lead, and in the third quarter kept the avalanche rolling by making 7 of 8 three-point attempts.
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“We withstood the punch,” said Central Michigan coach Sue Guevara, whose first coaching job was as an Ohio State graduate assistant in the 1980s. “We withstood that punch in the first quarter … there was not a panic.
“Give Ohio State a lot of credit, they came out and they were going to go after us like I’m sure they do a lot of teams. We will not fold. This team is very tough. This team is focused. We know what we have to do and we went out and did it.”
It was a sight to behold, as Mitchell attested, especially in the third quarter when Central Michigan post player Tinara Moore, the MAC player of the year, stepped out and hit what she said were the first consecutive three-pointers of her career. That she was open when taking them was due to the frenzy of the Buckeyes trying to claw back into it.
“I don’t think we ever got in position where a team went 7 for 8 in the third quarter from the three-point line,” said Mitchell, who made 6 of 16 three-point attempts herself and scored 28 points. “After a while, our rotation was all over the place and we couldn’t put a body on a body, and it got hard. And then down the stretch things just started scrambling, everybody was everywhere, we were in scramble mode.”
The scoring drought in the second quarter saw to that, with the Buckeyes missing all manner of shots, including at least four layups. Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff pulled levers with substitutions and combinations, but the machine kept sputtering as Central Michigan took the lead for good, 18-16, on a layup by Presley Hudson at 6:41 of the second.
“We allowed that (offensive ineptitude) to spill over to the defensive end, we lost a little focus and intensity when we weren’t scoring there in the second quarter, and that really killed us,” McGuff said.
Hudson led Central Michigan with 28 points. Moore had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Micaela Kelly 15 points, and Cassie Breen, who went 5 of 9 from three-point range, had 22 points. The team combined to make 25 of 27 free throws and dominated the boards 46-35.
Stephanie Mavunga had a double-double (16 points, 15 rebounds), but mostly the Buckeyes were beaten across the board.
“We are living the life right now,” Breen said. “We are on the highest frequency and want to keep it there.”
Mitchell, on the other hand, has had better days, even if she pushed her career total to 3,402 points, second only to Kelsey Plum, who wrapped up her stay at Washington last year with 3,527.
“She has been an unbelievable player and has been a great ambassador for our program and for this athletic department and even this university,” McGuff said of Mitchell. “She will go on to be one of the greatest players to ever play this game.”