COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff wrote four numbers on the whiteboard inside the Buckeyes’ locker room after the game. Eight, 16, 21, 25 – the number of points Maine scored in each quarter.
Stephanie Mavunga scored 26 points, Sierra Calhoun added 16 and No. 8 Ohio State beat Maine 83-70 on Sunday, but the more athletic and physically imposing Buckeyes never asserted dominance.
”We got to get better on defense. We’re not playing defense at all,” Mavunga said. ”We let girls come in here and get 25, 30 points or whatever they want to do against us. We really got to be defensively sound. We haven’t been doing that.”
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Julie Brosseau had a career-high 29 points for the Black Bears (4-4), shooting 10 for 18 from the field and knocking down seven 3s. Tanesha Sutton registered a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Mavunga made 11 of 12 field goals and grabbed 16 rebounds for the Buckeyes (8-2). Her sixth double-double of the year came early in the second quarter when she notched her 10th point after playing only nine minutes.
The Buckeyes had difficulty shooting the ball for much of the game and never solidified a tempo at which they’re accustomed to playing. McGuff said the execution in the first half wasn’t great, but the effort was there. The second half was much different on offense, which is when the defense regressed.
”We just didn’t sustain anything good for any long stretches today,” he said. ”And I think that was the biggest problem.”
With 5:02 remaining in the third quarter, Asia Doss gave her team a spark with back-to-back steals and layups to punctuate a quick 7-0 run and lift the Ohio State lead to 16. The Buckeyes led 63-45 heading into the final quarter, but Maine locked down defensively in the half court.
Ohio State star guard Kelsey Mitchell struggled from the field, converting on 3 of 15 shots. She finished with 11 points and five assists.
”Overall I thought our half-court defense was pretty good,” Maine coach Amy Vachon. ”Fast-break points and second-chance points really hurt us.”
Mavunga was the difference maker in the post. After struggling mightily on Thursday at Duke, she came back with one of her most dominant performances of the season. The only issue is she can’t be the only player to show that energy for Ohio State.
”We let them score more points as the game went along,” she said. ”We can’t be doing that, especially against great teams.”
Ohio State: The Buckeyes beat one of the least athletic teams on its schedule, but defense is an issue McGuff will need to address. They won’t have another test until conference play begins at the end of the month.
Maine: The Black Bears face three more Power Five conference teams before conference play begins Jan. 3.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Mavunga’s 16 rebounds gave her 1,000 for her career.
SHE SAID IT
Maine’s upcoming schedule is brutal, but it’s the test Vachon said she wants her team to face. ”We like to play teams like Ohio State,” she said. ”We like to play these teams because it helps us. It makes us better. To be able to be in a game, a 13-point game with the No. 8 team in the country, it’s good for us. I think after a game like this, our team gains confidence.”
Ohio State visits the Florida Gators on Wednesday.