Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays, Michelle Smith and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every week of the women's college basketball season.
LAS VEGAS -- After his team dominated Cal in the first game of the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas, Texas A&M coach Gary Blair wondered aloud how his talented group of guards would fare the next day against Ohio State's backcourt. They had just played impressively against the Bears, helping Blair win his 700th career game. But how would the Aggies do against sophomore Kelsey Mitchell, the nation's leading scorer last season?
"Boy, that Mitchell is tough," Blair said. "Ohio State just has great guard play and she is hard to guard. I hope we can slow her down."
The Aggies couldn't. Despite facing senior guards Jordan Jones and Courtney Walker, both of whom are good, hard-working defenders, Mitchell torched Texas A&M for a career-high 42 points in Ohio State's 95-80 victory, propelling her to this week's espnW Player of the Week.
Mitchell's 42 points, which came on 12-of-20 shooting from the field and 15-of-16 at the free throw line, also tied Samantha Prahalis' single-game school record. The 15 free throws equaled a Buckeye mark held by Katie Smith (1993 and 1994) and Nikita Lowry (1987).
"[Mitchell] was simply outstanding today. She was really efficient. She was aggressive yet under control." Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff
"[Mitchell] was simply outstanding today. She was really efficient," said Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff, who won his 300th career game. "She was aggressive yet under control. She's fun to watch and she was really special today."
Mitchell and the Buckeyes got off to a terribly slow start against Texas A&M, trailing 19-4 after one quarter, a day after Ohio State struggled against Liberty. Mitchell ended any worries by putting up 31 of her 42 after halftime in a 30-point turnaround all the more remarkable given that it was against another top-10 team. Mitchell put the Buckeyes on her back with her full array of step-back jump shots, darting moves into the lane, and creativity in transition. And she did it while playing 39 minutes a day after she played all 40.
"Well that didn't go well," Blair lamented. "We couldn't do anything with her in the second half."
It was a 20-minute performance that made everyone in attendance take notice -- except Mitchell.
"I really didn't know how many points I had during the game. I was just trying to do whatever I needed to do to help our team win the game," Mitchell said after the game. "Texas A&M is a really good team and they have some really good players in the backcourt that can score quickly and can make you pay for mistakes. So we just had to slow down and be efficient with our offensive possessions, and I thought we did that in the second half."
Mitchell scored 20 points against Liberty and made three key free throws down the stretch to help prevent the upset in Ohio State's 75-65 win.
The 5-foot-8 sophomore has nine 30-point games in her career and is the fastest player in Big Ten history to reach 1,000 career points. She needed 41 games, besting the previous mark of Penn State's Kelly Mazzante by six games. It took Smith, who had been the fastest Buckeye to 1,000, 52 games.
Ohio State, joined by Syracuse as the only unbeaten teams at the event, has won four in a row after losing its first two games, to No. 2 South Carolina and top-ranked Connecticut. Next up is No. 3 Notre Dame in South Bend on Wednesday, where Mitchell and senior teammate Ameryst Alston, who scored 21 points against Texas A&M, will again be up against a top backcourt, featuring All-American candidate Lindsay Allen, Madison Cable and Michaela and Marina Mabrey.
Previous winners: Courtney Walker (Nov. 22)