After falling to No. 16 in the latest AP Poll, the Ohio State women’s basketball team had just enough to hold on to a 70-61 victory over visiting Wisconsin on Thursday night in Columbus. The Buckeyes improved to 6-1 in Big Ten play, remaining in second place by themselves behind undefeated Maryland.
Ohio State failed to hit on a field goal for the final five and a half minutes and saw a 19-point trimmed to just six in the final quarter, but clutch free throws down the stretch secured the win.
Junior All-American Kelsey Mitchell led all scorers with 24 points, while Sierra Calhoun scored 10 and Stephanie Mavunga narrowly missed a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds.
The Badgers, who fell to 0-6 in conference play, struggled mightily to put the ball in the basket, shooting just 34 percent from the field. Suzanne Gilreath scored 15 points, the only one on her team in double figures.
Kiara Lewis, making her first start as a Buckeye, scored the game’s first five points, and three-pointers from Mitchell and Calhoun gave Ohio State the early 11-2 lead.
Another three from Mitchell pushed the lead out to 14-2, as Wisconsin opened up 1-for-7 from the floor and went over three and a half minutes without scoring a point. By the end of the quarter, the Buckeyes had knocked down 4-for-7 from long range and held the Badgers to 16 percent shooting in taking a 17-8 lead.
The roles reversed to start the second, as Wisconsin knocked down a few shots and Ohio State struggled. The Buckeyes hit just three of their first thirteen shots in the frame, experiencing a scoring drought of more than two minutes before the media timeout at the midway point. The Badgers only managed to hit three of five from the field in that span, though, as they had issues cleaning up the defensive glass.
Ohio State’s drought stretched on to three and a half minutes, and a three-point make by Gilreath drew Wisconsin back to within three points at 24-21. Mitchell answered with a three of her own, but Gilreath came right back and splashed another, then stole the ball and fed Courtney Fredrickson for a layup, forcing a Buckeye timeout with just a slim 27-26 lead.
Heading into the locker room, the lead was 29-28, as Ohio State connected on only five of seventeen shots during the second quarter. Mitchell led all scorers in the half with 14 points, while Gilreath paced the Badgers with nine.
Wisconsin took its first lead of the game twenty seconds into the third quarter, 30-29, thanks to a pair of free throws by Kendall Shaw, but it was the last scoring the Badgers would do for over three minutes. The Buckeyes responded with an 8-0 run, punctuated by a Calhoun triple, to reclaim a 37-30 lead.
Mitchell, Mavunga, Alexa Hart, and Linnae Harper helped spur Ohio State after that, and the cold shooting from the first quarter returned for Wisconsin. The Badgers turned it over nine times, made 2-for-12 from the floor in the quarter, and went final 3:48 without a field goal. The result was Buckeye lead of 58-39 with ten minutes remaining in the game.
Wisconsin made things extremely interesting in the final frame, as Ohio State simply could not find the bottom of the bucket. The Buckeyes had a scoring drought of four and a half minutes and were outscored 22-12 in the fourth quarter, with the Badgers pulling to within six points at 65-59.
Ohio State was able to ice the game at the free throw line, though, making six out of nine in the final two minutes to hold on.
The Buckeyes will play their second straight game at home on Sunday when Illinois comes to town. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be streaming live on BTN Plus.