COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State received a scare from Washington before Stephanie Mavunga took over.
Mavunga had her fourth double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds to help the ninth-ranked Buckeyes to an 85-67 victory on Sunday. Kelsey Mitchell led all scorers with 27 points for the Buckeyes (4-1).
Ohio State struggled mightily on the glass for much of the game, which kept the Huskies (1-2) within striking distance. Washington trailed by as few as three points on two occasions in the fourth quarter, but Ohio State eventually capitalized on its size advantage in the final minutes.
“We were terrible on the boards,” Mavunga said. “I still feel like even in the second half. And Coach made a big emphasis on that. And it’s kind of bad because we’ve really been working on that.”
Trailing 62-45 midway through the third quarter, the Huskies used a 7-0 run at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth to cut the Ohio State lead to eight. Then, freshman Khayla Rooks punctuated another 7-0 run with 6:51 left in the game to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to one possession, 70-67.
Mavunga, who had been out of position on the defensive end all game, finally made an impact in the middle. She made the next four Ohio State field goals and the Buckeyes were up by double digits. The senior post player also grabbed five rebounds in the final quarter.
The Huskies outrebounded the Buckeyes 28-17 in the first half and 46-40 for the game.
Freshmen Kierra Collier Rooks each scored 15 points to lead Washington.
In its season-opening, 20-point loss to Idaho State, the Huskies were outrebounded by 19. First-year Washington head coach Jody Wynn said her team showed toughness against Ohio State that it didn’t have in the first week of the season, which was a main reason Washington was able to battle back from multiple double-digit deficits and own the boards.
“We might not have a player over 6-foot or 6-1 on the roster, but it’s about toughness and we talked about that,” she said.
The Buckeyes made their first six shots, but couldn’t get out to the lead they wanted because of a struggling interior defense. The score was tied at 21 after a quarter and Ohio State led by just six at the break following a 3-pointer from Asia Doss with less than 10 seconds remaining.
“We’re letting other people do what they want to do to start,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said. “And we’re not imposing our will on the game from the tip, kind of like we’re easing into it and kind of daring them to do something and to see what they’re going to do instead of us going out, hey, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to dictate the game and we’re going to do that from the tip.”
Ohio State: Rebounding is a major issue for the Buckeyes, who will face stiff competition next week in Las Vegas for the Play4Kay Showcase.
Washington: The Huskies showed an ability to battle with a top-10 opponent ahead of its games in Las Vegas next week, which includes a matchup with No. 2 Texas.
Sierra Calhoun is one of Ohio State’s best 3-point shooters, but has been inefficient offensively to start the season. She had three points on 2-of-10 shooting and missed all five 3-point attempts Sunday. She entered the game shooting 20 percent from 3.
SHE SAID IT:
Ohio State dominated Stanford on the boards in the first game of the season, Mavunga particularly. Since then, the team has regressed immensely. Mavunga believes rebounding issues are mental.
“You have to want it. It’s heart, it’s will. And so you really just have to go out there. There’s no reason a 5-7 guard should be getting a rebound over a 6-4 post.”
Ohio State: Travels to Las Vegas to play Memphis on Thanksgiving Day.
Washington: Plays Creighton in Las Vegas on Friday.