The sixth-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team knew full well entering Saturday afternoon’s game against Ohio State that the Buckeyes would likely be its most daunting obstacle in its quest for a second straight conference championship and the biggest threat to halting its long winning streak over Big Ten opponents.
Maryland had its run, which stretched 31 games dating back to 2007, end amid turnovers, missed layups and balky possessions down the stretch and lost for the second time in three games. The Terrapins ceded early-season Big Ten bragging rights to the No. 9 Buckeyes in an 80-71 defeat in front of an announced 10,119 at Xfinity Center.
“For us it was a great accomplishment,” Terrapins Coach Brenda Frese said of the streak against the Big Ten, which included 21 consecutive wins last season when they swept the league regular season and tournament titles as a first-year member. “I don’t think we ever set out to do it. We’re always into a one-game mind-set, so I think if anyone thought we were going to go undefeated for the next four years, I mean, the game will keep you humble. I thought Ohio State came in here with a great chip on their shoulder, and we can’t stay in the past.”
Ohio State went ahead to stay, 56-55, on junior forward Shayla Cooper’s basket with 4 minutes 16 seconds to go in the third quarter. The lead expanded to 70-63 with 7:11 left in the game on senior guard Ameryst Alston’s three-pointer, but Maryland whittled it to 72-69 with 3:11 to play on junior guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough’s three-pointer.
Buckeyes Coach Kevin McGuff called timeout, and Ohio State got a pair of layups from Alexa Hart around Kelsey Mitchell’s putback for a 78-69 lead with 1:26 to play to all but secure the outcome. It was the teams’ first meeting since Maryland beat the Buckeyes in last season’s Big Ten tournament final, 77-74.
Reserve guard Brene Moseley led Maryland (12-2, 1-1 Big Ten) with 20 points and matched a career-high with 10 assists. The former first-team All-Met at Paint Branch High shot 8 for 16 but missed all five of her three-point attempts and went 4 of 7 from the free throw line. Walker-Kimbrough added 16 points but committed seven of Maryland’s 20 turnovers in the Terrapins’ first home loss since Jan. 27, 2014, to Notre Dame.
Frese cited the fatigue of a third game in six days as a culprit in Maryland’s 34-14 discrepancy in points in the paint as well as the Terrapins making 4 of 10 foul shots in the second half. Maryland finished only slightly ahead in rebounding, 38-35, but came in leading the country with a plus-20.5 rebounding margin. It also scored more than 17 points fewer than its 88.3 points per game average coming in, which was second nationally.
Mitchell had a game-high 28 points for Ohio State (10-3, 2-0). The sophomore guard, the second-leading scorer in the country, shot 10 for 20, a vast improvement from her performance last season in College Park when she had 19 points but made only 7 of 26 shots during an 87-78 loss.
“This a big win because of who Maryland is and how much success they’ve had,” McGuff said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Maryland. It’s a great road win. It’s a great team win, but at the same time, we have to take it for what it is, one Big Ten win.”
Ohio State had to play most of the fourth quarter without Cooper, who fouled out with 8:12 remaining. The reserve finished with 11 points, a game-high 10 rebounds and a team-high six assists before departing with the Buckeyes holding a 65-61 advantage. Hart chipped in 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting with six rebounds.
A flurry of turnovers contributed to Maryland having to play from behind in the third quarter for the first time when a three-point halftime lead turned to a 46-42 deficit. The Buckeyes scored nine in a row for their first lead of the game, compelling Frese to call timeout with 7:42 to play in the third. Maryland responded with a 7-1 flurry to reclaim the lead with 6:54 to go in the quarter.
By that point, Maryland had matched its season average for turnovers in a game with 15. Circumstances grew worse for the Terrapins moments later when Ohio State scored seven consecutive points for a 61-55 advantage with 2:14 to play in the third quarter. Mitchell capped the run by dribbling the length of the court, scoring on a layup and making the free throw after getting fouled.
“Today I don’t think I came out ready to play, so I’ll take this loss on the part of my team,” said Walker-Kimbrough, who leads the Terrapins in scoring with 18.1 points per game. “I have to come out a lot better and play a lot better.”