SAN DIEGO (AP) — Taylor Thierry made a driving layup with 5 seconds left in overtime, and No. 3 Ohio State closed with an 8-0 run in the final minute of the extra period to rally past South Florida 88-86 in the San Diego Invitational on Tuesday.
Cotie McMahon scored 30 points and assisted on Thierry’s decisive shot. Taylor Mikesell shook off a horrific shooting night to make a tying 3-pointer with 15 seconds left in OT for the Buckeyes (12-0), who are off to their best start since they won their first 15 games in 2011-12.
“I knew this would be a big challenge for us,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “We didn’t play very well in the first half, that’s for sure. Part of it was that we didn’t play well, and they did. But we played really hard in the second half and we found a way to win.”
Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu had a monster game with 34 points and 17 rebounds for the Bulls (10-4), who led 86-80 with a minute left in OT before Eboni Walker started the Buckeyes’ rally with a layup.
Ohio State held Fankam Mendjiadeu without a field goal in overtime. She converted two free throws with 2:38 left for her final points.
Mikesell had been 0-for-6 from 3-point range before her tying basket. She finished 2 of 13 from the field and scored eight points.
After Mikesell’s 3, South Florida was looking for the game-winner when Sammie Pulsis lost control of the ball, which went out of bounds beneath the basket. Ohio State raced downcourt and Thierry edged inside with the winning bucket.
“That was a great way to end the game, but I feel we could’ve done a lot better,” McMahon said. “We’re capable of playing way better than we played in the first half. But a win is a win, and we took care of business when we had to.”
Pulsis, who finished with 20 points, also missed a 3-pointer for the Bulls with 9 seconds left in regulation and the game tied at 75-all.
South Florida led 21-11 after the first quarter and was still ahead by nine, 55-46, at the end of the third. Pulsis made a 3 with 6 seconds left in the period.
Asked whether he still regards Ohio State as one of the nation’s top three teams, McGuff said, “I’m not too worried about the rankings right now. I’m more worried about us playing a full 40 minutes. We made the plays we needed at the end of this one, but we’ve got to get way more consistent and continue to get better.”
Ohio State faces No. 16 Oregon on Wednesday in the championship game of the two-day tournament. The Ducks beat No. 17 Arkansas 85-78 earlier Tuesday. South Florida faces the Razorbacks in the consolation game.
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