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College

As career nears end, Mitchell seeks one last run

  • ICYMI-Basketball

    Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell has 26 Ohio State, Big Ten, or NCAA records in her career.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • NCAA-Ohio-St-Notre-Dame-Basketball-5

    Kelsey Mitchell and the Buckeyes are hoping to make a run in the NCAA tournament, which will play the Final Four in Columbus.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS — Individually, there is not much more for Kelsey Mitchell to accomplish.

The Ohio State senior is the NCAA leader in points among active players, the fastest ever to reach the 2,000-point mark, and she is on pace to pass former Baylor star Brittney Griner for third place in career points on Sunday.

Mitchell has won Big Ten player of the year twice and been an All-American three times, and she is a good bet to become both again this season, during which she was averaging 24.6 points going into Wednesday night’s game.

Going into that home contest against Northwestern, Mitchell had made an NCAA-record 472 made 3-pointers to her name, crushing the old mark of 398. She also had made a 3 in 85 straight games, which also is an NCAA record.

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But her college career is nearing its end, a fact that has not hit just yet.

“When it does, I’m going to take it in. If I got to cry and get emotional, I will,” Mitchell said with a smile. “But I haven’t yet.”

As strange as it sounds, Mitchell said she didn’t realize she was a WNBA-caliber player until she found herself in the company of the best players in the United States before this season.

As part of the USA Basketball’s Under-23 national team, Mitchell won a gold medal at the Four Nations Tournament in August, 2017, in Tokyo.

Six weeks later, USA Basketball invited Mitchell to the senior national team’s training camp, where she was one of five collegiate players and 30 overall to receive an invite.

“I was like, ‘Wow, I’m learning stuff, and maybe I could do something on a pro level,’ ” she said. “You never know what’s going to happen, but that’s when I started thinking that — not when I was young, not in college. This just happened.”

The Cincinnati native has done just about everything possible while at Ohio State, but she is chasing one last milestone: making a tournament run with the Buckeyes before her time is finished.

Asked if there is any individual honor left that she wants, Mitchell said, “You can’t individually win, so no.

“There isn’t anything else to it,” she added. “I want to make a run as long as possible in this NCAA tournament and Big Ten tournament, and just win as much as possible. I want a couple of championships under my belt before I leave, but it won’t be easy because there are a lot of great teams out there.”

Mitchell and the Buckeyes have added incentive this season to reach the program’s first Final Four since 1993.

Columbus is the host city for the 2018 Final Four, and the Buckeyes — if they can make a tournament run — are in position to both start and finish the NCAA tournament on their home court.

In the NCAA tournament selection committee’s early reveal, released Monday, the Buckeyes ranked No. 13.

If Ohio State can make it to selection Sunday inside the top 16, it also would play its first and second-round games at home.

“It would be great, obviously,” Buckeyes coach Kevin McGuff said Tuesday. “We have a great following and we’d love to be to have the opportunity to play in front of them. I think that can happen if we handle and take care of what’s in front of us. The best way to do that is to practice and prepare well.”

For Mitchell, this will be her last chance to lead a Buckeye team that has made it to the Sweet 16 the past two years into the postseason.

Before Mitchell heads to the professional ranks, she said she was hoping Wednesday against Northwestern would not be her final game on the Buckeyes’ home floor.

“It’s just extra because you want that to be your moment in regards to this being the end,” she said. “This is my senior year, and they’re playing where [I] go to school, right around the corner.

“It eats at you because you want to be there so bad, but you can’t force time, either. You have to win games.”

Contact Nicholas Piotrowicz at npiotrowicz@theblade.com, 419-724-6110 or on Twitter @NickPiotrowicz

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