Being questioned as one of the nation’s true elite teams for its paltry 2-3 record on the road before Thursday, No. 7 Ohio State came into Ann Arbor, Michigan, wanting to prove to the country, the conference and more importantly, itself that it can play as well away as it can in Columbus.
While it wasn’t an entirely convincing performance, the Buckeyes (14-4, 6-1) were able to overpower Michigan (11-7, 3-4) 97-93 behind a very efficient 27 points from sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell.
The game belonged to the Buckeyes at the beginning. Coach Kevin McGuff incorporated a full-court press to the Scarlet and Gray’s defensive scheme, which helped force a total of 18 turnovers that led to easy baskets.
In the first quarter, along with having problems against the press, Michigan was unable to produce strong defensive possessions. When the high-scoring Buckeyes were able to move the ball around, they had no trouble finding open looks.
The Wolverines woke up in the second quarter, making smarter decisions and slowing down OSU. Senior forward Kelsey Mitchell — of no relation to OSU’s Kelsey Mitchell — dropping 12 points in the first half fueled their offense.
Michigan was able to keep the Buckeyes from making a shot for nearly four minutes, propelling the Wolverines to a scoring run. Once the Wolverines were able to produce on offense, they were able to focus and decrease the deficit to seven points going into the locker room.
The Buckeyes first-half scoring was led by their typical leader, Mitchell, who was on fire and dropped 20 points with a slew of 3-pointers. Although the sophomore was the overall leader, OSU had five players that surpassed double-figure scoring, showcasing the depth of its roster.
Michigan continued to battle in the second half, but the Buckeyes weren’t planning on letting another road game slip away. Each time the Wolverines began to cut down the lead, OSU would turn around and come right back with its attack.
When Michigan began to shut down OSU’s Mitchell, OSU junior forward Shayla Cooper picked up the scoring load. Cooper attributed her fifth double-double of the season, the 12th of her career, and finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Nineteen of those points Cooper scored came in the second half.
The two rivals went back and forth throughout the third and fourth quarters, exemplifying strong defense and sinking shots from all over. When the final buzzer went off, the Buckeyes were the ones celebrating the victory. Only winning by four, it might have been a little too close for comfort for McGuff and OSU, but it stood as a solid win on the road nonetheless.
Along with Mitchell’s and Cooper’s strong performances, senior guard Ameryst Alston and sophomore guard Asia Doss each netted 15 points, and sophomore forward Alexa Hart chipped in 10.
Sharpshooting sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty was the top scorer for the Wolverines, netting five of eight attempts from downtown and tallying 22 points.
The Wolverines received a hefty contribution from another underclassman in freshman center Hallie Thome, joining Cooper in the double-double club. Thome piled up 22 points and 12 rebounds on the night.
With the win, the Buckeyes are tied for first in the Big Ten with the No. 5 Maryland Terrapins. They are set to continue their road trip Sunday at Rutgers, with tip-off set for 3 p.m.