PITTSBURGH — Ohio State’s season came to a close Tuesday night with an 87-67 loss to Mississippi State in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Buckeyes (31-5) close out the season with a school record 31 wins and a sixth-straight Big Ten title, but fell short of reaching its second-straight Sweet 16. The seventh-seeded Lady Bulldogs (21-12) move on to meet third-seeded Florida State in the Dayton Regional next weekend.
Jantel Lavender led Ohio State with 17 points, but MSU’s Alexis Rack proved too much for Ohio State as she scored 30 points and drilled six 3-pointers while teammate Chanel Mokongo scored 19 on 9-of-11 shooting. In all, MSU shot 55 percent from the field and 54 percent (12-of-22) from 3-point range.
Turnovers plagued the Buckeyes all game and were a major factor in the outcome of the game. MSU’s defense forced 24 Ohio State miscues, recording 14 steals, and the Lady Bulldogs ended up with a 37-9 edge in points off turnovers.
Things looked good for the Buckeyes in the early going as Ohio State got off to a flying start with Sarah Schulze and Brittany Johnson hitting 3-pointers left and right as Ohio State led 27-19 with just under 9 minutes left in the first half. The teams traded baskets for the next 4 minutes before Samantha Prahalis hit another 3 to put Ohio State up, 32-26, with 5:18 left.
Unfortunately for Ohio State, it was all Lady Bulldogs from that point on. Mississippi State caught fire and ended the half on a 20-2 run and took a 46-34 lead into the locker room.
The second half saw more of the same. The Buckeyes would cut the lead to nine points with 8:57 left on another 3-pointer by Johnson. But each time the Buckeyes showed signs of life, the Lady Bulldogs had an answer to defuse any Ohio State comeback attempt.
Prahalis finished the game with 14 points and six assists to set a Big Ten single-season record with 289 assists. Schulze added 12 on four 3-pointers while Tayler Hill and Johnson each had 11.