With first place in the Big Ten on the line, Purdue came to Columbus, looking to defend its top spot.
No. 5 Ohio State (13-4, 5-1) and Purdue (14-3, 5-1) are both oiled machines offensively and defensively, but when the final buzzer sounded, it was the Buckeyes that came out with the 90-70 victory.
The Boilermakers’ transition defense has been one of their specialties the entire year, limiting their opponents to just 2.7 fast break points per game. On Sunday, however, Purdue had a bit of trouble keeping that statistic intact, as it allowed the up-tempo Buckeyes to score 12 points off fast breaks, with a majority of them coming off their nine steals.
Putting on a shooting clinic from behind the arc, splashing shots from all over the perimeter, OSU finished the game shooting 57 percent and 13-of-23 from downtown.
“We shot the ball really well today,” said coach Kevin McGuff on his team’s shooting performance. “That was the difference in the game. It was a great win versus a very good team.”
Both teams applied pressure early with all types of defensive schemes. The Boilermakers, who are known for the execution of their half-court offense, had troubles finding the gaps in OSU’s defense, forcing the officials to blow their whistles three times for shot clock violations.
Although the Buckeyes were able to make the stop on the first shot that went up from Purdue, they allowed 19 offensive rebounds, giving Purdue many second-chance opportunities.
The game began going back and forth, but the Buckeyes were able to take advantage of their stellar shooting performance, gaining a nine-point lead going into the locker room at halftime.
In the second half of play, OSU got its hands on loose balls and forced turnovers, which resulted in clean looks on the other end. Also continuing its shooting success, Purdue was unable to match the Scarlet and Gray’s efficiency.
Sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell, who continues to make impressive strides in her collegiate career, finished the game with 27 points. Mitchell’s scoring is definitely the strong point of her game, but sometimes her ability to get others involved gets overlooked. When the Boilermakers began to close the open window for her shots, she found her teammates, dishing out a total of six assists.
The other half of the Buckeye backcourt, senior guard Ameryst Alston, acted like a defensive back in football, intercepting a multitude of Boilermaker passes, then converting them on the other end. Alston added 25 points and tallied three steals.
Being one of the more experienced players on the team, acting as a leader, Alston was a lot happier with her team’s performance Sunday rather than last Thursday in its upsetting loss to Northwestern.
“We came out with a lot of intensity,” Alston said on the comparison between the two games. “When you start the game off with high energy and great intensity, it carries on.”
When the Mitchell and Alston both score more than 20 points, it is usually a sign of good things to come for OSU, as it is 9-1 this season when the duo eclipses that mark.
The depth of scoring OSU has helped the team tremendously down the stretch, and it normally begins with junior forward Shayla Cooper, a 6-foot-2 versatile player who knows how to score the ball in a profusion of ways. Although not typically known as an outside shooter, she did not miss one 3-pointer Sunday, going a perfect 4-for-4 from deep. Purdue did not have a strategy to defend Cooper’s outside shooting, allowing her to end the game with 16 points.
“Ameryst (Alston) gets mad when I pass up those shots when I was wide open,” Cooper said after the game. “A lot of teams tend to play off of me for the drive, so I knew that I would have a lot of open shots.”
For Purdue, senior guard April Wilson was the leader, dropping 19 points and distributing six dimes to her fellow Boilermakers.
On deck for the Buckeyes is “that school up North,” as they are set to travel up to Ann Arbor, Michigan, Thursday in hopes of continuing their winning streak against the Michigan Wolverines.