Alexis Rack drove through and around Ohio State’s slow-to-react defense for 30 points and seventh-seeded Mississippi State upset the second-seeded Buckeyes 87-67 on Tuesday night to reach the NCAA women’s tournament round of 16 for the first time.
The Lady Bulldogs trailed by as many as eight points in the first half, only to use their quickness, adept ball movement and outside shooting to seize control with an 18-0 run that turned a 32-26 deficit into a 44-32 lead. They never looked back in avenging a second-round loss to the Buckeyes a season ago.
Ohio State star Jantel Lavender, harassed all night by Chanel Mokango, scored 17 points — many after it was far too late. The 6-foot-4 Lavender repeatedly had trouble posting up as the 6-5 Mokango used her long reach and quickness to deny passes or, when Lavender handled the ball, to pressure her into taking hurried or off-balance shots.
Mokango scored 19 points herself, Armelie Lumanu added 17 and Mary Kathryn Govero scored 15 by making 5 of 6 from 3-point range. The Lady Bulldogs were 12 of 22 from beyond the arc to 10 of 15 for Ohio State, the nation’s best 3-point shooting team.
The Buckeyes’ fast-growing frustration showed when team leader Samantha Prahalis tore at her shorts in anger after fouling out with nearly five minutes remaining, taking any chances of a desperation comeback with her. The 20-point loss was Ohio State’s worst in the tournament since 1996.
Ohio State (31-5) became the second No. 2-seeded team to lose in as many nights, joining Texas A&M. It’s only the third time since the women’s bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1994 that a pair of 2-seeds lost, the other seasons being 2002 and 2007.
A year ago, the Lady Bulldogs led the Buckeyes 58-54 in Columbus with 6:43 remaining, but didn’t score again as Ohio State scored its final 10 points on free throws to win 64-58. Rack said Monday she didn’t have many memories of that disappointing loss and, on a neutral floor, it was Mississippi State that pulled off the comeback this time, making 55.7 percent of its shots (34 of 61) to Ohio State’s 46.3 percent (25 of 54).
Ohio State, up by as many as eight points after making its five 3-point attempts, suddenly lost its composure — and its offense — as the Lady Bulldogs went on a run that the Buckeyes probably thought would never end.
After Prahalis’ 3-pointer with 5:18 left in the half, Ohio State didn’t score again before halftime until Lavender’s layup with 26 seconds remaining — only the second basket of the half by Lavender, who came in averaging 21.5 points.
The Buckeyes, who never got their fast-break offense going in the final 30 minutes, looked confused and unable to react when the Lady Bulldogs began hitting from beyond the arc themselves or Rack sliced through their defense. Once, the right-handed Rack adeptly scooping the ball into the basket left-handed when she had no other option on the play.
Mokango’s defensive pressure also was a key as the Lady Bulldogs came from 15 points down to beat Middle Tennessee State 68-64 on Sunday, holding Division I scoring leader Alysha Clark to 17 points. Mississippi State needed a game-ending 13-0 run to win.