By Cynthia Maldonado Perez | @CDMP427
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – The Purdue Boilermakers earned the chance to play for a record tenth Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament championship when they ended top-seeded Ohio State’s 12-game win streak with a 71-60 victory on Saturday evening.
The fifth-seeded Boilermakers (22-11) held Ohio State junior Kelsey Mitchell, the two-time Big Ten player of the year, to 9 points, the second-lowest total of her college career. Purdue, which will face top-seeded Maryland on Sunday evening, advanced to the championship game for the first time since its 2013 championship and the 14th time overall.
Senior guard Ashley Morrissette led the Boilermakers with 24 points and was a key part of a defensive effort that held Mitchell to 3-for-22 shooting and just 1-for-12 from 3-point range. Freshman guard Dominique Oden scored 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including four 3-point shots.
Morrissette, a senior from Twinsburg, Ohio, scored in double figures for the 16th time in 17 games and the 64th time overall. Just as significant was her role in a variety of Purdue zones that frustrated Mitchell, the Big Ten’s leading scorer with an average of 23.5 points per game.
Ohio State (26-6) had averaged 87.5 points per game. Mitchell has scored 2,499 points, third in Ohio State history. She had made 45.4 percent of her field goals and 38.7 percent of her 3-point shots.
In two games against Purdue this season, Mitchell made 6 of 39 shots (14.5 percent) and 1 of 19 3-point shots (5.3 percent).
Mitchell’s career-low total of 8 points came against Connecticut on Nov. 16, 2015.
“When we ran one, which is 1-2-2, at the top I would just want to force her to the right side of the floor,” Morrissette explained on her role in the zone against Mitchell. “And then we would have a wing that would crowd her, and then I would just try to not let her go back left.
“And then we ran a 2-3 zone,” Morrissette went on. “I thought (Oden) did a great job, whoever was at the top with me, did a great job of just extending the 3-point line. She has deep range. So we didn’t want to play a regular 2-3. It was almost like an extended 2-3 because she can come down and pull up from anywhere.”
Morrissette moved to sixth place in Purdue history in career 3-point field goals with 175, including 3 of 4 against the Buckeyes, and fifth in single-season 3-point field goals with 63.
Before Saturday’s game, Mitchell had played six games in the Big Ten Tournament, averaging 29.8 points per game on 49 percent shooting.
This was the third time in last four Big Ten tournaments that the Buckeyes lost a semifinal, and the fourth time this season they scored less than 70 points. The Buckeyes lost three of the four games.
“This is going to tell us a lot about our team,” said Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff, “because we’re either going to learn from this and take some things here and make sure we’re a better team the next time we play, or you can sit around and pout about it and not get better.”
When the Buckeyes start play in the NCAA tournament a little over a week from now, Mitchell will be coming off one of the most disappointing games of a memorable college career.
“She’s a spectacular player, one of the very best in college basketball,” McGuff said, “and tonight wasn’t her night. But no one’s going to work harder. No one’s going to be in the gym more than she will. And she’s going to make sure that her having an off night doesn’t happen again this year, I can assure you of that.”