LEXINGTON, KY (AP) — Tori McCoy scored six straight points midway through the fourth quarter to help Ohio State withstand Kentucky’s furious rally from a 19-point second-half deficit and escape with an 82-68 second-round NCAA Tournament victory Sunday.
The fourth-seeded Wildcats trailed 50-31 early in third but closed to 65-64 with 6:04 remaining. The fifth-seeded Buckeyes answered with eight straight points behind McCoy.
Ohio State (28-6) held on from there to earn its second straight Sweet 16 appearance in the Lexington Regional next week at Rupp Arena.
McCoy finished with 14 points and a team-high 12 rebounds and Shayla Cooper scored 15 for the Buckeyes, who committed a season-low six turnovers.
Kelsey Mitchell scored 21 points, reserve Linnae Harper had 12 points and 10 rebounds in her first game back against her former team and Sierra Calhoun had 10 points for Ohio State.
Makayla Epps had 21 points and Evelyn Akhator had 14 points with a career-high 23 rebounds in their final games for Kentucky (22-11). The Wildcats shot just 34 percent while seeking their second consecutive Sweet 16 berth at home.
THE BIG PICTURE
Ohio State: The Buckeyes steadied themselves to earn another trip to Lexington. They have shot at least 45 percent in eight of the past 11 games.
Kentucky: Tentative from the start with shot selection and passing, the Wildcats dug a hole they couldn’t overcome in losing just their fourth home game this season. They shot just 30 percent in the first half and finished the fourth at just 28 percent, failing on several chances to overcome a big deficit.
Ohio State faces the winner of Notre Dame vs. Purdue winner in Friday’s Lexington Region semifinal.