The Ohio State women’s basketball team steamrolled its way over Northwestern on Friday afternoon at the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, scoring a 99-68 win over the Wildcats. The victory moves the Buckeyes ahead to Saturday’s semifinals, where they will face the winner of today’s matchup between Indiana and Purdue.
Ohio State hit on 13 three-point field goals in the game, a team conference tournament record, and had five players score in double figures. Junior guard Kelsey Mitchell, fresh off being named conference player of the year on Tuesday, led the way with 27 points on 9-for-15 shooting that included 6-for-9 from deep.
Senior Shayla Cooper continued her monster play of late, contributing 11 points and nine rebounds, Linnae Harper, Alexa Hart, and Kiara Lewis each had 11, and Tori McCoy narrowly missed a double-double with eight points and 11 boards.
Nia Coffey led Northwestern with 21 points and eight rebounds, while Ashley Deary added 13 points, 6 boards, and 2 steals in the losing effort.
In a good sign for Ohio State, Mitchell drilled her first shot of the game, a three-pointer from the top of the key, and the pace was fast and frenzied early. Maybe too fast, as the teams combined to shoot 1-for-10 and turn the ball over five times in the first three minutes.
The Buckeyes went nearly four minutes without a field goal, but a triple from the left elbow by Harper ended the drought and gave Ohio State an 8-3 lead at the midway point in the quarter. Northwestern had a field goal drought of more than two minutes of its own, and after a Makayla Waterman jumper made it a 10-3 game, the Wildcats were forced to call a timeout.
Out of the timeout, Northwestern abruptly turned the ball over, and Mitchell splashed her second three of the game from the top of the key for a ten-point lead. After the eighth Wildcat turnover of the frame, Asia Doss slashed to the bucket for a layup to cap a 10-0 run.
Coffey helped spark a string of three straight field goal makes, but a 4-for-15 line for Northwestern in the first ten minutes and five straight points by Cooper sent the Buckeyes to the second period with a 23-11 lead.
Ohio State turned it over three times in the first two and a half minutes of the second quarter, but Mitchell’s third triple of the game followed by the second from Cooper pushed the advantage to 29-13 quickly.
Mitchell splashed another, this time from some five feet behind the arc on the right elbow, Sierra Calhoun made the team’s fourth three-pointer of the frame, and a rout seemed imminent as the Buckeyes pressed ahead 37-15.
Foul trouble and fatigue from playing a day ago started to hamstring the Wildcats, with Deary and Coffey each picking up her third. An and-one by Cooper made it a 42-17 game at the media timeout halfway through the period.
Northwestern suffered another scoring drought of more than three minutes, but came back with a pair of buckets from Abi Scheid and Lauren Douglas. But turnovers continued to haunt the Wildcats, as they committed another eight miscues in the quarter, and they walked to the locker room trailing 51-24 after a buzzer-beating corner three by Lewis to end the half.
Ohio State, which made nine from deep in the half, was led by Mitchell’s 16 points. Cooper added 11 points and seven rebounds, and every Buckeye who saw the floor scored. Northwestern was outscored 17-2 off turnovers in the first twenty minutes, and was led by six points from Christen Inman and five from Coffey.
The theme of the first half carried over to start the second when Deary committed a turnover six seconds into the third quarter. Mitchell went to the other end, hit a layup while getting fouled, and sunk the free throw to complete the more traditional three-point play. Mitchell then knocked down her fifth and sixth threes of the game the next two times down the floor, giving Ohio State a 60-24 lead.
Lewis hit another three to push the advantage to 68-32, and things started getting chippy. Lewis was hit with a technical foul after connecting with an elbow above Coffey’s shoulders and throwing her to the ground after a scrum for the ball. Douglas made the pair of free throws that resulted and Coffey got a layup after the inbounds for a quick four point spurt.
Coffey picked up her fourth foul on the next possession, though, and Calhoun made a corner three, giving the Buckeyes a 71-38 lead at the midway point.
A tense moment a few minutes later for Ohio State fans came when Mitchell was slow getting up after diving on the floor for a loose ball. She left the court under her own power, and the Buckeyes continued to roll, prompting the question of why she was still in the game when it was all but over. At the end of the third quarter, the Ohio State lead was 84-47.
The fourth period began with four of the Buckeyes’ five starters on the bench, and the Wildcats took advantage with a 9-3 run to start the frame. Mitchell’s twin sister Chelsea put an end to the run with a layup on a nice dime from Waterman, but Northwestern won the quarter 21-15 to make the score a little less lopsided.
Ohio State will now wait to find out if its opponent for Saturday’s semifinal game will be Indiana or Purdue. Tomorrow’s matchup is scheduled to tip-off at 4:00 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on Big Ten Network and BTN2Go.