COLUMBUS — The Michigan women’s basketball team and No. 11 Ohio State rely heavily on their two star guards, juniors Katelynn Flaherty and Kelsey Mitchell, respectively. Both players wear the number three, are in the conversation for All-American honors, and are the keys to success for their teams this season.
The pair of standouts lived up to their lofty billing Saturday in the battle of the final two undefeated teams in the conference. While both led their respective teams in scoring, Flaherty outscored Mitchell, 38-26. However, the Buckeyes would ultimately outscore the Wolverines, 96-87.
“I think everyone around the country who caught that game got to see a great matchup of two of the best guards in the country,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “(Flaherty) was kind of in a struggle as of late, but that’s not typical of her.”
Added Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff: “She’s a really good player. She can score in a variety of ways, she has a really quick shot and she is incredibly accurate.”
Flaherty came out hot against the Buckeyes, scoring 10 points in the first quarter — two more than she tallied in the entire contest against Wisconsin on Jan. 1. But Mitchell answered Flaherty with eight points of her own, which kept Ohio State within one at the end of the quarter.
Mitchell took the lead in the second quarter, continuing her ferocious attack with eight more points, including a 3-pointer that gave the Buckeyes a 33-32 advantage with 3:30 to go until halftime.
But Flaherty countered Mitchell with eight more points as well, which featured a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to cut Michigan’s deficit to 45-43 at halftime.
On the other side of the break, Mitchell responded to Flaherty’s three with a trey of her own. She went on to score five points in the quarter to push Ohio State’s lead to 69-59 entering the fourth.
“(Mitchell) is a great player,” Flaherty said. “She can score at will. A lot of our game plan was to stop her. Even though she still scored a decent amount, I thought we did a pretty good job.”
The Wolverines might have been run completely out of the gym during that frame if not for Flaherty’s 11 points, nine of which came from beyond the arc. Flaherty added 10 more points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome Michigan’s deficit.
“I just stayed in the gym and kept shooting,” Flaherty said. “I built my confidence back up, and my teammates found me in great positions today. That’s what really got me going.”
Even though their individual performances stood out the most, Flaherty and Mitchell were certainly not the only contributors on their respective teams. Junior guard Jillian Dunston notched her second double-double of the season, and the Buckeyes had five players score at least 10 points, including forward Stephanie Mavunga, who nearly netted a double-double of her own with 12 points and nine rebounds.
But while the stars of both teams lived up to their hype in Saturday’s contest, only one of the pair came out on top.