On Senior Day for the fifth-ranked Ohio State women's basketball team, the Buckeyes sent off the trio of Cait Craft, Ameryst Alston, and Kalpana Beach in style with a resounding beating of Illinois, 117-74.
Alston, in her last regular season home game in scarlet and gray, scored a game-high 39 points as Ohio State cruised to the blowout victory. The senior from Canton McKinley shot 15-for-24 from the floor, including five three-pointers, and added five assists.
The Buckeyes improved to 23-4 on the season, 15-1 in Big Ten play, and shot an astounding 62 percent from the floor, making 16 from beyond the arc.
Sophomore All-America candidate Kelsey Mitchell, the nation's fourth-leading scorer, was absolutely on fire as well. The Cincinnati native made her first eight shots from the floor, including six three-pointers, on her way to 35 points.
The Buckeyes used an 11-2 run midway through the first quarter to surge to an 18-9 lead early. Mitchell accounted for eight of those points, knocking down her first two three-point attempts of the game and gliding in for a layup after a steal.
Both teams came out red hot. Ohio State shot 9-for-10 to start the game, while the Illini made their first six from the floor.
Illinois got seven first quarter points from freshman Alex Wittinger, but Mitchell could not be stopped. She dropped in another pair of threes, finishing the quarter with 16 points on 6-for-6 shooting. After a frantic pace of play, Ohio State had a 37-24 lead.
Mitchell continued her hot hand in the second quarter, splashing two more threes right out of the gate, and the Buckeyes worked their lead out to 43-24. By halftime, she had 25 points on 8-for-9 shooting, including 6-for-6 from three-point range.
The Illini simply did not have enough firepower to keep up with Ohio State's offensive assault. Wittinger finished the half with 13 points and sophomore Chatrice White had eight, but the Buckeyes shot a scorching 67 percent from the field, en route to a 67-40 lead at the half. It was the most points the team has scored in any half all season.
Aside from Mitchell's barrage, Alston added 19 points. Beach, whose career has been marred by injuries, got a layup, and Craft drained a three to ensure that all three honorees were in the scoring column.
The second half started with more of the same. Alston sunk a pair of free throws and a jumper and Mitchell hit her seventh three-pointer of the game as Ohio State stretched its lead to 76-43. Another Mitchell layup, a four-point play by sophomore Asia Doss, and a three-point play by Alston put things at 85-51.
Illinois senior Sarah Hartwell tried to keep her team from getting run off the court, scoring seven in the quarter, but the ridiculous shooting of the Buckeyes made the game a laugher. Another triple from Alston, her fourth of the game, pushed the lead out to 88-51.
After three quarters, Mitchell had 35 points and Alston 29, both within range of the program's single-game record of 42 set by Samantha Prahalis in 2012. Ohio State led 99-55, and still had a shooting percentage of 66 percent.
Mitchell began the fourth quarter on the bench and never moved, which meant it was Alston's game. She scored a pair of layups and a three-pointer in the first four minutes as the Buckeyes reached their highest point output of the season with a 111-69 lead.
White had a nice final quarter for the Illini, scoring 11 points, but it was all Ohio State in this one. Alston scored 10 points in the quarter, falling just three points shy of the single-game record, and received a raucous ovation as she, Craft, and Beach were subbed out one last time at Value City Arena.
The Buckeyes hit the road on Wednesday to take on newly-minted all-time Big Ten career scoring leader Rachel Banham and Minnesota. The game tips off at 8:00 p.m. ET and is available on BTN Plus.