By Mitch Stacy
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS — Kelsey Mitchell scored 27 points to help Ohio State rout Buffalo 88-69 on Friday in a first-round game of the women’s NCAA Tournament.
Buffalo, which got an automatic tournament bid by winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament, struggled against the larger, sturdier Buckeyes, who move onto the second round Sunday against West Virginia.
The Buckeyes, ranked as high as No. 5 nationally this season, had to rebound after a late-season swoon that saw them lose three of their last four games and their second best player, senior guard Ameryst Alston, to a wrist injury in the Big Ten Tournament.
Alston didn’t play at all Friday, but the Buckeyes (25-7) hardly needed her against overwhelmed Buffalo (20-14), which rushed out a five-point lead but soon was swamped. OSU led 48-23 at the half, capping it with a nifty behind-the-back pass from Asia Doss to Makayla Waterman, who laid it in. OSU led by as many as 34 in the second half.
Shayla Cooper contributed 17 points for the Buckeyes, including 4 out of 5 from the foul line. Doss chipped in 16 more.
Guard Joanna Smith led the Bulls with 23 points, despite sitting for a chunk of the second half after picking up her fourth foul. Forward Courtney Wilkins added 14, including a team-leading four 3-pointers.
Ohio State: Alston’s status is still in doubt for Sunday’s game against West Virginia. She’s wearing a brace on her right wrist after injuring it scrambling for a loose ball in the Big Ten Tournament win over Rutgers March 4. The senior guard averaged nearly 20 points per game for the Buckeyes, who obviously missed her in the loss to Michigan State. …
Buffalo: The Bulls are truly an international squad. Four players on the roster are from Australia — including sophomore twins Liisa and Katherine Ups — and there’s one each from Canada, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Netherlands. Just two of the players hail from New York.
Ohio State: Making its 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance, with an overall record of 24-22. … The Buckeyes blocked 10 shots against Buffalo and outscored it in the paint 32-18.
Buffalo: Made its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio State: Plays West Virginia on Sunday in the second round. The winner advances to the regional in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Buffalo: Season over.