Had enough hoops?
No matter how much you love basketball, there’s a good chance there was enough end-to-end action on the campuses of Ohio State and Capital University to make you happy – especially if your team won.
Central Ohio has been basketball central the past several days, with: The semifinals and championship games for all four divisions of the OHSAA boys tournament at the Schott; four teams and three games of the first two rounds of the NCAA Div. I Women’s Championship at St. John Arena; the two semifinal games of the NCAA Div. III Women’s Championship at Capital; and the Buckeye men hosting the first two rounds of the NIT at the Schott.
That’s a lot of basketball – and a lot of fans. The OHSAA games drew about 129,000 people from all over Ohio.
Local fans got to celebrate a win by Westerville South in the Div. I championship game; the Buckeye men beat Akron in overtime and then lost to Florida in the NIT. Over at Capital, Tufts and Thomas More won and will meet in the championship game. Thomas More was led by the incredible Sydney Moss, who scored 39 points.
But the weekend’s brightest star was the Buckeyes Kelsey Mitchell. The super sophomore scored 45 points in an 88-81 win over West Virginia on Sunday to help the Buckeyes – the No. 3 seed – advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011.
“She’s a great player, one of the best players we’ve ever played against,” said West Virginia Coach Mike Carey. “When she comes right at you (on her way to the basket) I’m not sure what you can do.”
Mitchell was unstoppable at times, as she alternated between hitting three pointers (5) and driving to the hoop for a basket or a trip to the free throw line. She made 18-of-22 free throws.
“She’s difficult to guard,” said Buckeyes Coach Kevin McGuff. “She has speed and quickness like no one else in college basketball.”
Mitchell and the Buckeyes all-out pressure defense were the deciding factors in the game, as they forced 27 turnovers, which led to 40 points.
“Our pressure was one of the things that helped us,” Mitchell said.
“That’s been our focus the past two weeks, pressure, pressure, pressure,” said Shayla Cooper, who scored 15 points and added 9 rebounds.
The Buckeyes aren’t an especially big or deep team.
“We didn’t feel we could beat them in a half-court game,” McGuff said. “They’re too big and physical … the 40-11 advantage in points off turnovers was the key.”
Another key was the return of Ameryst Alston, a senior, who has missed the first-round game with a wrist injury. During the regular season, Mitchell was the country’s fourth-leading scorer (25.8 per game) and Alston was 49th (18.6).
The Buckeyes next play on Friday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota as they take on Tennessee. The Volunteers are the No. 7 seed and upset No. 2 seed Arizona 75-64 on Sunday night.
Expect a lot more of Mitchell and Alston and even more pressure defense, as the Buckeyes take on Tennessee.
“You have to go with what got you here,” McGuff said.