The Ohio State women's basketball team is no longer perfect in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes fell to Northwestern, 86-82, in Evanston on Thursday night. The team now has a 12-4 record for the season.
Ohio State had won eight straight games coming into Thursday night, including their first four in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes' last loss had come at the hands of Notre Dame in South Bend on Dec. 2. Northwestern had lost three of its first four conference games, and recently fell out of the AP top 25. The Wildcats improved to 13-4 overall.
Northwestern had a quick start in this one, jumping out to a 10-3 start in the first two minutes and a half minutes, forcing Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff to call a timeout. Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell responded, knocking down a pair of three-point shots and two free throws, cutting the lead to 13-10.
The Wildcats' top two scorers, junior Nia Coffey and senior Maggie Lyon lived up to their billing in the first quarter, combining to score 18 of their team's 27 in the opening quarter, en route to a 27-16 lead. Mitchell picked up her second foul with just under three minutes left and had to go to the bench. The Buckeyes scored just two points after her departure.
Coffey and Lyon kept the momentum going at the outset of the second quarter, scoring Northwestern's first five points. Ohio State missed four of its first five shots, falling behind 34-18, and forcing another McGuff timeout.
The Buckeyes' shooting woes continued as the Wildcats surged to a 42-20 lead midway through the quarter. By the time halftime arrived, the deficit was 48-30. Coffey led all scorers with 17 points in the half, while Lyon added 14. Junior Ashley Deary also grabbed a team-high six rebounds and dished out nine assists.
Ohio State shot just 39 percent, with junior Shayla Cooper scoring 12 points off the bench. Mitchell was limited to just the eight first quarter points, and sophomore Alexa Hart pulled down a half-high eight rebounds.
The third quarter was a back and forth affair, with Ohio State unable to dig into Northwestern's lead until late. The Buckeyes used full-court pressure to try to force the Wildcats into turnovers and ramp up the pace, but Coffey continued to score, adding six points to her total. Junior Kristen Inman scored five points in the quarter and freshman Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah amassed a triple-double with ten minutes remaining, with 10 points and 10 boards.
Mitchell scored eight in the quarter, helping to rally Ohio State back to within striking distance, 68-56. Cooper also scored four points, while senior Ameryst Alston, who was a non-factor in the first half, scored five.
Cooper got things started in the fourth quarter. The former Georgetown transfer got fouled while knocking in a jump-hook, and completed the three-point play to cut the lead to nine, but was called for a technical foul after throwing an elbow at Inman. Lyon sunk both free throws to push the lead back out to 11 at 70-59.
The full-court defensive pressure began to pay dividends for the Buckeyes after that, as Northwestern turned it over on three straight possessions. Another bucket from Cooper and a three-pointer by Mitchell trimmed the lead to just six, at 70-64, as Coffey limped to the bench.
But Ohio State went more than three minutes without a point after that. Jumpers by Inman and Lyon and a layup by Kunaiyi-Akpanah pushed the lead back out to a dozen.
Despite a furious rally, highlighted by 12 fourth quarter points by Mitchell, the Buckeyes would not be able to recover.
Lyon led Northwestern with 24 points to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists, while Coffey had 23 of her own. Inman added 17 points and seven boards, while Kunaiyi-Akpanah finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Mitchell led all scorers with 28 points, including six three-point makes. Cooper had 23, while Hart put forth her own double-double, scoring 12 points and bringing down 14 rebounds.
Up next for Ohio State is a Sunday afternoon matinee against Purdue in Columbus. The game tips off at 2 p.m. ET, and will be televised live on BTN.