When a team is one of the top-ranked units in the country, every opponent is expected to bring its A-game in attempt to knock that team down. That is what Northwestern brought to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Thursday evening against No. 5 Ohio State.
Northwestern (13-4, 2-3) came out of the gate hot and never looked back. The Wildcats displayed their fast paced offense and forced OSU (12-4, 4-1) to turn the ball over and take poor-quality shots.
Although the Buckeyes provided a couple of scares in the fourth quarter, they were unable to capture a lead, falling to the Wildcats 86-82.
Northwestern could do no wrong in the first half, starting out the game with a 10-3 run giving coach Kevin McGuff of OSU no choice but to take an immediate timeout to regroup.
Knowing that OSU has the ability to score quickly and close a gap in a matter of seconds, Northwestern applied even more pressure following the timeout.
Throughout the first half the Buckeyes were unable to convert offensively, and had troubles finding answers on defense.
Finishing the first 20 minutes with only 30 points, OSU did not have its typical scoring distribution. Junior forward Shayla Cooper came off the bench and scored a team-high 12 points, battling in the paint with the Wildcat forwards.
Sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell attributed two fouls early in the first quarter, limiting her playing time and opportunity to provide a spark for her team. Knocking down a couple of three-balls, Mitchell finished the first half with eight points, shooting 2-of-5 from the field.
Wildcats junior forward Nia Coffey led Northwestern, bullying her way to the basket practically each time she touched the ball in the paint and dropping 17 points in the first half.
When Coffey didn’t have an opportunity to score, the Wildcats swung it around to find senior guard Maggie Lyon on the perimeter. The lefty sharpshooter Lyon went into the locker room with 14 points, shooting 4-of-5 from behind the arc.
After the break, the Buckeyes came out with fire under their belts determined to get out of the deep hole that they put themselves in.
OSU went on a small run at the end of the third quarter, cutting the lead down to 12 and giving the Buckeyes the confidence they needed heading into the final quarter of play.
In the fourth, fans experienced a plethora of momentum shifts, with OSU making the first move early on. An old-fashioned three-point play by Cooper and a corner 3-pointer from senior guard Ameryst Alston brought the Scarlet and Gray within six with 7:49 remaining on the game clock.
Right when the Buckeyes thought that they might be stepping into the driver’s seat, Northwestern scored a quick two buckets inside to regain its double-digit lead. Still with 6:14 left, OSU was not going to surrender the game that easily.
Down the stretch, the Wildcats lost one of their leading scorers, Coffey, to injury. With the offense previously revolving around Coffey, Northwestern had to figure out a different gameplan to come out on top. Coffey finished the game with 23 points.
Mitchell, known for her clutch play, did not lose focus and went into scoring mode, hitting a pair from downtown and converting a three-point play from the charity stripe, bringing the Buckeyes within five with 22.9 seconds to play.
McGuff was able to set up a play for Mitchell to get a clean shot off from the right wing, but it hit off the rim, leaving OSU short when the final buzzer sounded.
Mitchell led all scorers bringing in 28 points, while Lyon led the Wildcats with 24.
Despite the impressive offensive performances from Lyon and Coffey, the Wildcats were fueled by the aggressiveness of junior guard Ashley Deary who was a pest on the defensive end, stealing the rock three times. Deary only scored six points, but dished out a total of 11 assists, creating scoring opportunities for her teammates.
Returning home, OSU will look to get back to the winner’s circle as it is scheduled to host Purdue in a Sunday matinee. The ball is set to be tossed up for tip at 2 p.m.