No team in the country made a louder statement to the start of conference play and the new year than Ohio State, which scored wins over Michigan State and Maryland during the past week and subsequently moved up six spots to No. 5 in The Associated Press women's basketball poll, its highest ranking in nearly six years.
The Buckeyes opened the week with an 85-80 win at home over Michigan State on Dec. 31 with Kelsey Mitchell leading the way with a game-high 25 points. Mitchell’s outing included going 13-of-13 from the free throw line, while dishing out a game-high five assists against the Spartans. Ameryst Alston added 23 points to the cause.
Ohio State’s 80-71 victory on the road over No. 5 Maryland on Jan. 2 was especially telling as it dealt the Terrapins their first loss in Big Ten play since joining the conference last season. It was also Ohio State’s first win over a top-5 ranked team since Dec. 20, 2006. Mitchell notched a game-high 28 points to go along with four rebounds, four assists and four steals in the win. Alexa Hart contributed 20 points on 10-for-12 shooting to help Ohio State win its sixth straight and get even for a defeat in last year's Big Ten title game to Maryland.
The Buckeyes, 10-3 and 2-0, have been led this season by one of the highest scoring duos in the country, with Mitchell and Alston combining to average 43.7 points per game. Mitchell is currently No. 2 nationally in scoring at 24.7 points per game, trailing only Kelsey Plum of Washington, who averages 27.3 points per outing.
Ohio State will look to continue the roll when they return to action on Jan. 7 at home against Indiana. Ohio State and Maryland will meet again this season on Feb. 8 in Columbus.
Honorable mention teams of the week: Fresno State, Gonzaga, Iona, Iowa State, Seton Hall, Siena, Temple and TCU.