Ohio State women’s basketball improved to 2-0 in Big Ten play with a 94-87 win over a scrappy Northwestern team on Tuesday night. The victory did not come easy, but avenged last season’s 86-82 upset loss at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston.
An 11-2 run late by Northwestern made it a nailbiter, but Ohio State had just enough to hold on, icing the game with free throws.
The Buckeyes, ranked 11th in the country in the most recent AP poll, were led, as is usually the case, by Kelsey Mitchell. The All-American scored 33 points and dished out seven assists as Ohio State had five players in double figures.
Nia Coffey had 22 points and 11 boards for her ninth double-double of the season, Ashley Deary added 10 points, 14 assists, and six steals, and freshman Abi Scheid scored a career-high 20 for the Wildcats.
Less than a minute into the game, Deary intercepted a baseline pass to become the all-time career steals leader in Big Ten history. It was part of a frenetic beginning to the game that saw the two sides flying up and down the court in the first four minutes.
Sierra Calhoun knocked down three triples from the same spot on the left elbow to spark a 16-9 Ohio State lead during that span. The Buckeyes started out 7-for-10 from deep in the first quarter. Asia Doss knocked down a pair, and Mitchell and Linnae Harper each had one apiece.
Northwestern kept pace, though, making five out of nine from three-point range and forcing six turnovers, to limit Ohio State to a 31-28 lead.
The pace slowed, if only slightly, in the second frame, and a pair of deep threes from the top of the key by Mitchell gave the Buckeyes a 43-36 lead just beyond the midway point.
Coffey used her diverse inside-outside skillset to score eight in the quarter to keep the Wildcats in contact. The senior’s 13 points and six rebounds paced Northwestern, which also got 10 from Christen Inman.
Ohio State got 15 from Mitchell and 11 from Calhoun in the first twenty minutes to lead the way. But it was a three-pointer and dribble drive layup from Kiara Lewis, a steal by Harper, and an and-one for Tori McCoy to close out the half on a 10-2 run that gave the Buckeyes a 54-42 lead at the half.
Scheid started the second half on fire, knocking down three early field goals, including two from deep, as the lead was cut to 56-53. Of more concern to Ohio State fans, though, was a hard fall taken by Mitchell after appearing to take an inadvertent elbow from Coffey, which sent her to the bench.
Things got chippy between the teams after that, and a couple of fifty-fifty calls benefiting Northwestern led to Buckeye head coach Kevin McGuff getting assessed a technical foul. After Inman connected on the free throw, Ohio State’s lead was just 58-56.
A big sigh of relief came next for the scarlet and gray, though, with Mitchell returning to the court and abruptly knocking down a rainbow three from the left elbow and dropping her fifth dime of the game to McCoy for an easy lay-in.
That performance from Mitchell sparked a 10-3 run for the Buckeyes, but Scheid hit her fourth three-pointer and a pair of free throws to bring it to a halt and send the game to the final quarter with Ohio State ahead just 68-63.
Doss hit a corner three to start the fourth, and a gliding transition layup from Mitchell pushed the lead out to 75-66, prompting a Wildcat timeout.
Northwestern refused to go away, though, as Deary continued to catalyze the offense with her defensive thefts. The lead was cut to 77-73 before Mitchell did what she does and took over. A deep three-pointer was followed by another transition layup, and Harper came up with another key steal and layup of her own.
Mitchell sank a pair of free throws with three and a half minutes remaining, capping a 9-0 run that extended the lead to 86-73. The Buckeyes held on from there, if only barely, to escape with the win, as the Wildcats mounted a furious comeback behind Deary and Coffey.
Ohio State will play its first home game of the conference schedule on Saturday when Michigan visits Columbus. Tipoff is set for noon, and the game will be televised live on Big Ten Network.