COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Ohio State got off to a sizzling start and then held off Maryland to get one of the biggest wins in school history.
Kelsey Mitchell scored 31 points to lead five players in double figures as the 12th-ranked Buckeyes shot 63 percent from the floor in taking down the No. 2 Terrapins 98-87 on Monday night. The Buckeyes haven’t beaten such a highly ranked team in 24 years.
Ohio State (24-5, 14-1 Big Ten) scored 35 points in the first 10 minutes on 14 for 18 shooting, led by nine at the half and held on as Maryland rallied in second half.
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The victory had Ohio State forward Shayla Cooper waxing lyrical afterward. Cooper played her last game at Value City Arena, which on Monday contained a vocal, hyped-up crowd of 6,500.
”When the ball is moving like that, it’s so beautiful,” she said. ”It’s like an orchestra out there. It’s just like soft jazz music. It’s just so beautiful, and everyone was feeling it. It’s just a beautiful sight.”
Thanks to a 14-0 run at the end of the third quarter, Maryland climbed back in the game and was down by two at the start of the fourth. They trailed by six with 1:29 left, but had to start fouling and couldn’t make up the deficit.
The loss was only the second for the Terps this season and their first in the Big Ten. Their last was a six-point setback to No. 1 UConn on Dec. 29.
”We’ve got to get better,” said a dejected Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who led Maryland with 29 points. The Terps shot 42 percent, after averaging 50 percent this season.
Cooper had 20 points and nine rebounds, and Alexa Hart added 15 for the Buckeyes, who won their 10th straight game.
Brionna Jones had 21 points on aggressive play in the paint, and Destiny Slocum had 15 for Maryland (26-2, 14-1).
”I thought Ohio State was sensational,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese. ”That’s the best I’ve seen them. Their first quarter punch really impacted us hard. They were really clicking on all cylinders.”
WHAT A START
Ohio State jumped out to a 35-22 lead at the end of the first quarter, led by Mitchell’s 15, including 3 for 4 from beyond the arc. The Buckeyes shot an astounding 77.8 percent in the frame and put together a 12-0 run. They were 5 for 6 overall from 3-point range.
”When you’ve got Kelsey Mitchell on the floor, that can happen a lot,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said.
After going up by 15 early in the second quarter, Ohio State came down to earth, and led 49-40 at the half.
”I thought we were very stagnant in the first half,” Frese said. ”I’m disappointed in our transition game. I think we didn’t push like we normally push, and it caused some troubles.”
Maryland: Stunning loss for the Terps, who likely will get another go at Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament.
Ohio State: The biggest win of the season for a team on a hot streak at just the right time, despite the loss of their best rebounder and No. 2 scorer, Stephanie Mavunga. Buckeyes now in position to win the Big Ten regular season title.
”I think we can do something special,” Mitchell said.
This was the first win for Ohio State over a team ranked No. 1 or No. 2 since the Buckeyes topped second-ranked Iowa on March 7, 1993.
Maryland: Finishes regular season at home Sunday against Minnesota.
Ohio State: Plays last regular-season game Sunday against Rutgers.
Follow Mitch Stacy at http://twitter.com/mitchstacy