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ESTERO, Fla. (AP) – A big lead was gone, and No. 8 Ohio State looked to be in trouble.
Kelsey Mitchell wasn't bothered whatsoever.
Mitchell scored 24 points, including 3-pointers on consecutive possessions early in the fourth quarter after her team fell behind, and the Buckeyes held off No. 11 Syracuse 77-72 on Saturday night in the semifinals of the Gulf Coast Showcase. The Buckeyes (5-1) led by 15 points early in the second half before needing to rally.
''They just came in the rhythm of the offense,'' Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said of Mitchell's two big 3-pointers late. ''She's such a great player and makes a lot of big shots.''
The Buckeyes (5-1) will meet No. 5 Baylor on Sunday in the championship game.
''They've got a great team, talented, well-coached,'' McGuff said of the Bears, who rolled past DePaul in Saturday's other semifinal. ''They're the biggest team in college basketball and we've got a great challenge on our hands. But that's why we came to this tournament.''
Alexis Peterson led all scorers with 29 points for Syracuse (4-2). Brittney Sykes had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Gabby Cooper scored 12 for Syracuse - which will meet No. 18 DePaul in the consolation game Sunday.
Peterson's 3-pointer from the left wing with about 40 seconds left tied the game at 72. But she was called for a blocking foul as Mitchell dribbled near the sideline on the next Ohio State possession, and the Buckeyes' star coolly hit both to put her team back up by two.
Another free throw made the lead 75-72, and Peterson's deep 3-point try from the right wing in the final seconds was short. A pair of free throws then closed the scoring.
''We played really well in the second quarter and the start of the third quarter,'' McGuff said. ''Then our defense really started breaking down and you can't give a team like Syracuse open 3's.''
Syracuse needed only 1:49 of the first quarter to put together an 11-0 run, with four different players doing the scoring and the last three baskets in that stretch all coming from 3-point range.
But the Buckeyes controlled much of the rest of the half, taking a 44-34 lead into the locker room and pushing the margin out to 15 early in the third quarter.
Syracuse wasn't done.
A 7-0 run got the Orange within two late in the third, and Sykes' layup with 7:37 left put Syracuse back on top 62-60. That's when Mitchell answered with the back-to-back 3-pointers, and Buckeyes would not trail again.
Syracuse: The Orange have now dropped two of their last three games after a 3-0 start to the season. Each of those three games have been of the down-to-the-wire variety. ... Cooper was 4 for 16 from the field - 0 for 1 from 2-point range, and 4 for 15 from 3-point range.
Ohio State: Both of the Buckeyes' games in the tournament so far have been close in the fourth. ... Ohio State outscored Syracuse 32-16 in the paint.
Peterson went 1-1 on Saturday.
The native of Columbus, Ohio was rooting for No. 2 Ohio State to beat No. 3 Michigan in football earlier in the day - and the Buckeyes took care of her wishes, prevailing 30-27 in double overtime. But her wish to beat the Buckeyes fell short, despite her season-high point total.
Syracuse: Faces No. 18 DePaul on Sunday in the tournament consolation game.
Ohio State: Faces No. 5 Baylor on Sunday in the tournament championship game.
Ohio State Reveals 2017-18 Schedule