COLUMBUS, OHIO – Shae Kelley scored 29 points — three shy of her career high — and had 18 rebounds as the No. 23-ranked Gophers edged Ohio State 76-72 on Thursday night for a rare victory at Value City Arena.
The 6-1 senior forward came into the game averaging 15.8 points in her first season with the Gophers.
“She brought an element to our team that we didn’t have,” said Gophers coach Marlene Stollings, referring to the transfer from Old Dominion. “I couldn’t be more proud of her and her performance. We told her she played like a first-round pick [in the WNBA draft] tonight.”
And at an opportune time.
The Gophers (15-2, 4-1 Big Ten), coming off a loss to Maryland on Sunday, needed a big game from somebody to offset guard Kelsey Mitchell’s 36 points for Ohio State (11-7, 3-3). The conference’s leading scorer, averaging 24.9 points, made a school-record nine three-pointers.
“[Mitchell] is just unbelievably talented and we knew that coming in,” said Stollings, an Ohio native who played for the Buckeyes from 1993-95.
Ohio State led 28-27 at halftime behind Mitchell’s 20 points.
“We did a much better job in the second half of containing her,” Stollings said, “and forcing her into more contested shots and getting rid of the ball more.”
The victory was the Gophers’ fifth over the Buckeyes in their past seven meetings but only their third in 28 games at Ohio State.
Kelley had plenty of help to get this one.
Guard Mikayla Bailey had 16 points — she was 5-for-11 on three-pointers — and 12 rebounds. Center Amanda Zahui B., whose string of double doubles in a row ended at nine, had 16 points and eight rebounds while guard Shayne Mullaney had seven points and 10 assists.
“Their 4-5 combination [Kelley and Zahui] is probably as good as anybody’s in the country,” Buckeyes coach Kevin McGuff said. “They are physical … and they can finish around the basket.”
This was Minnesota’s sixth road win in a row.
Ohio State got within four points at 74-70 on Shayla Cooper’s two free throws with 43 seconds left. Mullaney matched those free throws three seconds later.
A layup by Cooper with 16 seconds left made it 76-72 and, after a turnover by Mullaney, Ohio State had the ball again but missed a layup and the Gophers got the rebound.
The Gophers outrebounded the Buckeyes 60-40, getting 25 offensive rebounds.
“Rebounding was certainly one of the two main keys for the game for us,” Stollings said. “We were just resilient going to the glass.”
“That was what coach asked me to do, get a couple putbacks, get in there and get some second looks and opportunities,” Kelley said.
The win lifted the Gophers into a tie for second place with idle Iowa in the Big Ten.
“What they are doing is really amazing, and I am just so proud of them,” Stollings said.