Having the nation’s top scorer can be both a positive and a negative when it comes to matchups.
For the Ohio State women’s basketball team, it’s good because that leading scorer is freshman guard Kelsey Mitchell, who has averaged 25.8 points per game this season.
“She’s a really special player,” OSU coach Kevin McGuff said last week before the Buckeyes played at Wisconsin. “She’s having a great season.”
On the contrary, the presence of such a player can hurt a team — like it has OSU at times this season — when opposing coaches have only one thing in their game plan: stop Mitchell.
After falling to Minnesota mid-January, McGuff said the Buckeyes needed to find a second scorer to compliment Mitchell in order to win certain games.
In seven OSU losses this season, Mitchell has averaged 22.8 points while the highest scorer not named Mitchell in those games averages less than 20 points. In the case of Minnesota, Mitchell led the team with 36 points and junior guard Ameryst Alston added 18, but no other Buckeye could break single digits.
“Kelsey has been amazing,” junior guard Cait Craft said last week. “She obviously does not play like a freshman. She is very consistent.”
Going into Thursday’s 85-73 win at Wisconsin, Craft had referenced the need to find consistency and build momentum heading into the last stretch of the Big Team season.
Since the loss to Minnesota on Jan. 15, the Buckeyes have won three straight, had more scoring contributions from players other than Mitchell and are starting to gain the consistency Craft was talking about.
“Its really inspiring,” Craft said. “The mistakes that we do make during games are ones we can fix and one of the best things is to have teammates that are so hungry to get better.”
The Buckeyes are not only playing better but beginning to find depth in their bench. Sophomore forward Shayla Cooper came off the bench to fuel OSU during the Wisconsin game with 17 points.
Michigan State will provide the Buckeyes with a good chance to continue their win streak — the Spartans are four games below .500 in the Big Ten — that up to this point has been road-dominated. The Spartans (11-10, 3-7) are coming into Columbus on Monday evening on a two-game win streak despite sitting at ninth in the conference.
Michigan State is 11-20 all time when playing in Columbus with the Spartans sweeping both meetings last year.
Similarly to OSU, the Spartans are led by a powerful scorer in redshirt-sophomore forward Aerial Powers, who is averaging 21.8 points per game and closing in on 1,000 career points.
Game time is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center on Monday.