Out of all the home games this season for Maryland women’s basketball, Saturday’s duel with Ohio State was by far the most highly anticipated. Both teams entered the game ranked in the top 10. Unfortunately for the fans that piled into the Xfinity Center, the Buckeyes were too much to handle.
Kelsey Mitchell, who led the nation in scoring a season ago and was second this year with 24.4 points per game, led the way for Ohio State. She overcame a slow start to score a game-high 28 points. Her fellow sophomore, forward Alexa Hart, added 20 points on 10-12 shooting. Maryland was headed by Brene Moseley’s 20 points and 10 assists, while Shatori Walker-Kimbrough notched 16 in a mostly disappointing performance.
The general expectation heading in was that the game would be fast-paced and high-scoring, given that it featured two of the top five offenses in the nation. Maryland was second with an average of 88.3 points per game, while the Buckeyes’ 85.8 ppg were good for fifth.
However, the early first quarter featured an overabundance of sloppy play. In the first four minutes, the two teams combined for 9 turnovers and just 4 points. It was the Terps that seemed to find their footing first, and they took an 18-14 lead into the second. Maryland held Mitchell and Ameryst Alston to 2 points on 1-8 shooting in the opening period.
Mitchell heated up in the second quarter, but so did Brene Moseley. The senior erupted for 10 points on 5-6 field goal shooting, and led all scorers at halftime with 13. Mitchell, meanwhile, racked up 9 points in the period to give her 11 for the game. The Terps led by 8 at multiple points, but an impressive tip-in by Alexa Hart cut the lead to 40-37 just before the halftime buzzer.
After Brionna Jones started the second half with a layup, the Buckeyes took their first lead of the game during a 9-0 run aided largely by Maryland turnovers. The skid prompted head coach Brenda Frese to call timeout with her team trailing 46-42. After the break, the Terps regrouped. Kristen Confroy and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough drilled threes on back-to-back possessions to reclaim the Maryland lead at 48-47. Ohio State then turned to a press that stifled the Terps’s attack, holding them scoreless for the next three and a half minutes. In that time, they opened up a 6-point advantage, which Brionna Jones would trim to 4 before the end of a very eventful third quarter.
Maryland caught a break with 8:08 to play, when Shayla Cooper fouled out for the Buckeyes. She had been a force all game, recording 11 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists to go with stellar interior defense. But the Buckeyes hung tough, maintaining the lead throughout the final period. Walker-Kimbrough nailed a three with 3:09 left to cut it to 72-69 and send the home crowd into a frenzy, but that was as close as the Terps got. Ohio State pulled away late and won by 9.
Three things to know
1. Turnovers suck. And Maryland committed 20 of them, leading to 16 Buckeye points. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had a season-high 7 giveaways.
2. Kelsey Mitchell is a superstar. She scored 26 of her 28 points after the first quarter, and 17 in the second half. She can spot up and shoot, or she can drive to the hoop and draw a foul. There’s a reason she’s an All-American, but the scariest part is that she’s only a sophomore.
3. The B1G streak is over. Maryland was 18-0 last season in conference play before winning the tournament in Chicago. Saturday’s loss guarantees the Terps won’t go undefeated again, and it’s also their second defeat in three games. The team will get a chance to avenge this one in Columbus on Feb. 8, but its first order of business is getting back on track in Thursday’s home game against Nebraska.