Late Surge Pushes Buckeyes Past Michigan 77-73
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Mitchell and Craft Postgame Interview
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - For over 30 minutes, it didn't look like it was going to happen but Ohio State found its footing on both ends of the floor in crunch time to pull out a 77-73 comeback victory over Michigan Tuesday night inside Value City Arena.
The Buckeyes (17-8, 9-4) trailed by 13 points with nine minutes to play but a 12-0 run and some stellar defense down the stretch allowed OSU to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Wolverines.
For the second-straight game, the nation's scoring leader Kelsey Mitchell struggled from the floor. But like all good players do, she found a way. Mitchell was 11-of-15 from the foul line and dished-out a team-high six assists to help will the Buckeyes to victory. She finished the game with 26 points with 19 of those coming in the second half.
Freshman Alexa Hart and sophomore Shayla Cooper also had good games for the Buckeyes as each recorded a double-double. Hart was a perfect 8-of-8 from the floor and finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks. Cooper notched her second-straight double-double with 10 points and a team-high 13 rebounds.
Junior Cait Craft was key tonight as well as she stepped-up and scored a pair of big buckets during the decisive run. Her three-pointer with 6:42 remaining brought the Buckeyes within a single possession and her rebound and put-back in traffic gave the Buckeyes the lead for good with just under 3:30 to play. Craft finished the game with 11 points for her second-straight game of 10 or more points.
Michigan (14-10, 6-7) got a double-double from Nicole Elmblad as she tallied 14 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Shannon Smith led the Wolverines with 18 points. Cyesha Goree, the team's leading scorer, was marred by foul trouble most of the night but still finished with 14 points and nine rebounds before fouling out with five minutes to play.
Despite turning the ball over 16 times, the Wolverines had the game in hand with eight minutes remaining. But the Buckeyes stepped on the gas defensively which took Michigan out of its rhythm. UM was just 3-of-15 from the floor and had three turnovers in the final eight minutes of the game.
The first 20 minutes were not pretty for the Buckeyes and they were lucky to only be down 37-34 at halftime. Mitchell and Ameryst Alston were a combined 2-of-14 from the floor in the first half but Mitchell's lone field goal was a three-pointer with 1.4 seconds left that she then converted into a four-point play after a foul. That was key for the Buckeyes as they were able to take some kind of momentum into the locker room.
Michigan came out of the break and controlled the game with its defensive pressure, holding between a five and nine-point edge for the first nine minutes. A 6-0 Wolverine run gave the visitors its largest lead of the night of 13 points with nine minutes to play.
Mitchell hit a three that ignited the 12-0 Buckeye run and completely turned the tide of the game. After a pair of Alston free throws and a Cooper jumper, Mitchell converted an old-fashioned three-point play to stretch the OSU lead to 74-68 with 1:17 remaining. Smith then canned a deep three-pointer and after a UM timeout, Katelynn Flaherty stole the inbounds pass. But Smith missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game with 46 seconds left. That led to a Buckeye run-out which Cooper finished with a lay-in, giving OSU a 76-71 edge with 40 seconds left. Craft split a pair of free throws in the waning seconds to provide the final margin.