Las Vegas, NV — The First semi-final of the Play4Kay Shootout tournament at the Mandalay Bay Event Center was a match up between the No. 9/8 Ohio State Buckeyes and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.
The Eagles had earned the right to face Ohio State after upsetting DePaul in the first game on Thanksgiving day, while the Buckeyes handled Memphis to advance forward in the tournament.
Both teams came off of strong games getting most of their points in the paint. This game was different. Tonight’s contest was dominated by three-pointers on both sides.
The first period was in the Buckeyes' favor where they went on an early 24-0 run that lasted for 6:37 of the period. The opening quarter essentially was what separated the two teams the rest of the game.
Ohio State was able to get fast breaks and catch the Eagles off guard while also holding FGCU to hardly any baskets by playing tight man to man defense. However, late in the second period, Florida Gulf Coast redshirt senior Taylor Gradinjan was able to lead the team with nine points.
As seen in the first two periods, the Buckeyes dominated the court and especially from the three-point, especially senior Kelsey Mitchell. After scoring her third three pointer of the game, she became the NCAA all-time leader in career three-pointers, with 401.
Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff was not surprised that Mitchell has hit this milestone in her career.
“I’ve never been around someone who works as hard as her, these things don't happen by accident,” McGuff said. “She only thinks about winning and that’s one of the things that makes her a great kid.”
Even though this milestone was so significant, the team was excited to get the win. For Mitchell, she's just happy to be where she is today.
“Just a lot of hard work that was put into it, I laced up my shoes like everyone else so it wasn’t a goal, it wasn’t an achievement, but I am happy to be apart of this,” said Mitchell.
“I am overall grateful. It hasn’t really set in, I don’t know if it ever will. Overall, I am just grateful for everything that happened.”
With Ohio States' very strong shooting game today, they were able to put pressure on the Eagles early to keep them from even getting shots off as the clock was always winding down to almost a shot clock violation. Despite the Buckeyes strong start, they aren’t complacent as they focus on improving from game to game.
“We got a lot more games left and a lot more growing to do and more shots to make and I feel that we can only be better, only going to get better,” Mitchell said.
Even with the semi-final win today, it is still early in the season. Even so, McGuff feels that this year is a special team.
“We have great leadership this year, our chemistry is really good and we’ve got a lot of upperclassmen that play a lot of minutes and that have been in big games and they bring experience that we haven’t had in the past," McGuff said. "So (we're) counting on them that we have a great year."
The Buckeyes will play in the final tomorrow against the winner of the Stanford and Belmont game.