LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — After using multiple contributions to build a
big lead that seemed safe, Ohio State needed a group effort to avoid an
even bigger collapse against Kentucky.
Tori McCoy scored six
straight points midway through the fourth quarter to help the Buckeyes
withstand Kentucky's furious rally from a 19-point second-half deficit
and escape with an 82-68 second-round NCAA Tournament victory Sunday.
fourth-seeded Wildcats trailed 50-31 early in the third but closed to
65-64 with 6:04 remaining. The fifth-seeded Buckeyes answered with eight
straight points behind McCoy to lead 73-64 with 3:35 left.
down the stretch and scoring those six points was a huge thing for me,"
the freshman forward said after making all six shots for 14 points
along with a team-high 12 rebounds.
"I'm happy that my teammates looked for me. We made it happen. I'm just happy that we didn't rush anything."
Cooper scored eight of Ohio State's final nine points and the Buckeyes
(28-6) held on from there to earn their second straight Sweet 16
appearance in next week's Lexington Regional a few blocks away at Rupp
As shaky as the Buckeyes looked while Kentucky sliced their
lead, they just as quickly found their resolve on both ends to complete
a balanced performance.
Kelsey Mitchell scored 21 points, with 19
coming in the first half. Cooper had 15 points and eight rebounds, and
Sierra Calhoun scored 10 as Ohio State won the first postseason meeting
between the schools.
Junior reserve guard Linnae Harper had
perhaps the most complete line facing her former team for the first
time: 12 points, 10 rebounds and a team-high 8 assists in 27 minutes.
Then again, she knew the place pretty well from two years with the
"Just being back here on the court was a good feeling and getting a win overall was great for our team," Harper said.
Epps had 21 points and Evelyn Akhator had 14 points with a career-high
23 rebounds in their final games for Kentucky (22-11). The Wildcats
missed their final nine shots and made just 34 percent from the field
while seeking their second consecutive Sweet 16 berth at home.
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell, "If we could've played with the same
kind of energy we had in the third quarter to start the game, maybe
things would've been different."
THE BIG PICTURE
The Buckeyes steadied themselves to earn another trip to Lexington.
They have shot at least 45 percent in eight of the past 11 games. They
also won for the 14th time in 15 games.
Kentucky: Tentative from
the start with shot selection and passing, the Wildcats dug a hole they
couldn't overcome in losing just their fourth home game this season.
They shot just 30 percent in the first half and finished the fourth at
just 28 percent, failing on several chances to overcome a big deficit.
jump-started Ohio State with a quick 3-pointer from the tip to set a
confident tone it maintained throughout, even those moments down the
stretch. That's where the Buckeyes bench was critical, outscoring
"We got ourselves in the position to be as relaxed
as possible and continue to run our offense," said the guard, who shot 8
of 21. "Giving it up was one of those things that needed to be done,
and I think we stayed with the game plan and made sure that happened."
and Akhator were understandably emotional after their final home games
at Memorial Coliseum. They acknowledged applause from a mostly blue-clad
crowd and choked up several times discussing their careers.
though we didn't get the win today, we're a team," said Epps, who
thanked Mitchell, teammates and others. "We made Memorial Coliseum rock
today and I will never forget the players in the locker room."
Epps finished as Kentucky's No. 5 career scorer with 1,790 points.
Ohio State faces the winner of Notre Dame vs. Purdue winner in Friday's Lexington Region semifinal.