Sports Journalism Blog

By Jerome Bingham

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS – After experiencing their first starting lineup change of the season, the regular-season Big Ten champion Ohio State Buckeyes cruised into the semifinals of the conference tournament with an 82-57 victory over ninth-seeded Rutgers. Senior guard Kelsey Mitchell scored 22 points to increase her career total to 3,308, third highest in NCAA history.

The Buckeyes were without senior guard Asia Doss, who missed a game for the first time in her college career because of an ankle injury.

Ohio State, 25-6, will meet fourth-seeded Minnesota at 6 p.m. on Saturday. Rutgers, 20-12, will have to wait for Selection Monday to learn its post-season opportunity.

Doss is second on the team with 109 assists, and nine of her 26 double-digit scoring games have taken place this season. The decision facing coach Kevin McGuff this week is how quickly Doss will return.

“We know if we rest her now, we can have her back 100 percent by the time we would play a game after this weekend,” McGuff said. “So, we’ll continue to evaluate, just kind of see how she does.”

Alexa Hart, a senior, started in Doss’ absence. Prior to Friday, the Ohio State starters had been Mitchell, Doss, senior Stephanie Mavunga, senior Linnae Harper and junior Sierra Calhoun. Hart notched 10 points, two less than her season high. “She knows the game, so she did a great job talking to our players,” McGuff said, “kind of helping coach them through some things and just keeping the energy up on the bench. That’s what she could do today. That’s how she could contribute, and she did a great job of that.”

Mitchell is 85 points behind Jackie Stiles of Missouri State, who scored 3,393 points in a career that ended in 2001. Washington’s Kelsey Plum set the NCAA record of 3,527 points last season. Mitchell has scored at least 20 points in 25 games this season and 105 in her career.

Rutgers was limited to 32.4 percent shooting, its fourth-lowest percentage of the season. Senior guard Tyler Scaife was held to 13 points, more than six below her average. Scaife took 13 shots, the third fewest she has attempted this season. She has scored 2,233 points in her career.

The Buckeyes ended the second quarter with a 15-2 run. They would outscore the Scarlet Knights 44-14 in the second and third quarters to take a 69-33 lead, their largest of the game.

Ohio State’s first outright regular-season conference title in eight years allowed the Buckeyes to benefit from a double bye. Rutgers advanced to the quarterfinal round by beating Purdue, 62-60, on Thursday afternoon.

But Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said that a short turnaround prepares her team for NCAA tournament play.

“In order to win at the NCAA level, the team has to be extremely flexible,” Stringer said. “You know, I wish we could have won another game at least because that would have been better preparation for the NCAAs, but the NCAAs are a little bit more rugged than that.”

Ohio State has held its last nine Big Ten opponents under 70 points. Starting with the 2006 conference tournament championship, the Buckeyes have a 23-8 record in Big Ten tournament games.

To prepare for the semifinal, Ohio State’s plan will be simple.

“Same thing we’ve always done,” Mitchell said. “Stick to the game plan, apply to the game what Coach has for us to do, stick with personnel and just play the game for 40 minutes.”