The Ohio State women’s basketball team clinched a share of the Big Ten regular season title on Sunday afternoon with a 73-45 win over Rutgers in Piscataway. The Buckeyes, currently ranked No. 12 in the country, finished the conference slate with a 15-1 record, tying Maryland atop the standings. This marks the 15th conference championship in program history, and the first since 2010.
Because of its head-to-head win against the Terrapins last Monday night, Ohio State has also claimed the top seed in the Big Ten tournament, which will run from Wednesday through Sunday at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Buckeyes’ first game will be played Friday at noon against the winner of the 8/9 matchup on Thursday.
The win gave head coach Kevin McGuff and his squad their 11th win a row and improved the overall season record to 25-5. The Scarlet Knights, conversely, fell in defeat for the 10th consecutive game.
In a turn of events that was not the least bit surprising, Kelsey Mitchell led all scorers. The All-American from Cincinnati had 21 points, and also added five rebounds, five assists, and a steal.
Shayla Cooper reached a milestone by scoring her 1,000th career point at Ohio State. The team’s lone senior scored 12 points on the day, also grabbing seven rebounds and coming up with two thefts of her own.
Rutgers was led by Shrita Parker, whose 16 points made her one of only two Scarlet Knights in double figures. Aliyah Jeune contributed 10.
The first two minutes of the game saw just three combined points and five combined turnovers between the two sides. But Ohio State ripped off a 10-0 run, punctuated by a Cooper triple and a steal and layup from Mitchell, to take a 10-3 lead and prompt a Rutgers timeout.
The Scarlet Knights shot just 2-for-13 during the first quarter, turning it over nine times, and enduring a more than seven-minute scoring drought. The Buckeyes weren’t much better, going more than three minutes without a point and shooting just 33 percent in the frame.
Mitchell knocked down a foul line jumper and an elbow three to jumpstart the Ohio State offense, and Asia Doss found the bottom from beyond the arc as well, concluding the first ten minutes with a 18-6 lead.
Doss knocked down her second three-pointer of the game to get the Buckeye scoring started in the second, and Cooper followed right after with her second, extending the lead to 24-8. Rutgers once again went through a scoring drought, this time lasting nearly four minutes.
Ohio State went nearly three minutes without a field goal, though, and the score was 26-11 at the midway point. Sierra Calhoun ended that with a three-point make, but the Buckeyes continued to struggle from the floor. A Kiara Lewis three-pointer and a layup off a steal by Cooper sent the scarlet and gray to the locker room with a 37-17 lead.
Cooper had a team-high nine points in the first half, to go along with five rebounds, while Mitchell, Doss, and Calhoun had seven apiece. The Scarlet Knights, who shot 22 percent in the first 20 minutes, were paced by seven from DaChe Williams.
Rutgers began the third quarter hitting three of its first six shots and forcing three early Ohio State turnovers, good for a 6-0 run that cut the lead to 14. An and-one for Linnae Harper and a Mitchell jumper got the momentum back in the Buckeyes’ favor, though, and the Scarlet Knights experienced four miscues of their own in quick succession.
Mitchell knocked down her second three of the game and got a circus layup to fall, giving Ohio State a 49-34 lead at the media timeout. A floater in the lane for the Big Ten’s leading scorer right after the stoppage and a pair of free throws gave her 11 points in the quarter, and another Rutgers scoring drought, this one lasting three minutes, sent the game to its final ten minutes with the Buckeyes in front 53-36.
The Scarlet Knights missed their first four shots in the fourth quarter, and Mitchell just kept scoring, connecting on a deep three-pointer from the right wing. Cooper followed with her third from deep, and halfway through the final frame, Ohio State had its largest lead of the game at 61-38.
Calhoun hit a deep three, giving the Buckeyes four shooters with at least two makes from deep, and McGuff started pulling his starters as the team went on a 6-0 run and rolled to victory.
So all attention now turns to the postseason for Ohio State. The Buckeyes put together one of the finest regular seasons in program history, but this team has much higher aspirations.