INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Kelsey Mitchell is in the right form at the right time.
The Ohio State sophomore scored a Big Ten Tournament record 43 points and the ninth-ranked Buckeyes overcame a slow first half to beat Rutgers 73-58 on Friday night to advance to the semifinals.
The Buckeyes trailed the entire first half and by as many as nine. But they outscored the Scarlett Knights 26-11 in the third quarter, taking their first lead 36-34 on Mitchell’s 3-pointer at 7:15.
Mitchell scored 18 of Ohio State’s final 22 first-half points. It wasn’t enough to take the lead, but it kept the Buckeyes close. In the second half, Mitchell went off, scoring her final 25 and sparking the Ohio State charge.
“I didn’t know it would be a special night. I think it is special that we were able to win. I’m not too focused on (my stats),” Mitchell said. “(Winning) is my main focus. I’m pretty sure it’s the whole Ohio State family’s focus, just so that we can win, prepare and try to do something special this weekend.”
The Buckeyes play No. 19 Michigan State in Saturday’s semifinals.
Tyler Scaife and Kahleah Copper combined to score 27 of Rutgers’ first 29 points. Scaife finished with 26 and Copper with 25 points and 12 rebounds.
They weren’t enough to keep the Buckeyes at a distance, though. The second-seeded Buckeyes found a spark early in the second half that ignited the offense that combined with a stingy defense responsible for 24 Rutgers turnovers.
The Buckeyes wouldn’t let up after their third-quarter burst. Asia Doss scored seven of her nine points in the third quarter, when Ohio State stretched its lead to as many as 10 points.
The Buckeyes turned turnovers into 30 points.
Ohio State got hot beyond the arc, too. The Buckeyes made 10 of their 23 3-point attempts — eight from Mitchell.
“I think it’s pretty special, but after a while, you kind of get used to Kelsey doing that,” said. “It’s, like, expected almost.”
Mitchell’s 43 points broke former Buckeye Jantel Lavender’s Big Ten Tournament single-game record of 37.
Ohio State’s Ameryst Alston left the game in the third quarter with a right arm injury after diving for a ball and her status for Saturday’s game is unknown. … Mitchell has scored 20 or more points in 25 of 30 games this season. It is her seventh game with at least 30 points and third with 40 or more points. … Mitchell made eight 3-pointers, moving her to second on the Buckeyes career list with 240.
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