As time ticked down at the Schottenstein Center in the final home game of the Ohio State women’s basketball team’s regular season against Illinois, the question was not which team would score more points. It was whether OSU’s starting backcourt of Kelsey Mitchell and Ameryst Alston could outscore the Fighting Illini on their own.
On a warm Sunday afternoon in Columbus, No. 5 OSU (23-4, 15-1) ran past Illinois (9-18, 2-14) with an outstanding offensive showing, 117-74.
The Buckeyes powered past the Illini behind an impressive offensive performance from the senior guard Alston, who scored 39 points, just three points shy of the single-game record at OSU. Meanwhile, the sophomore Mitchell had an extremely efficient day, putting in 35 points on 11-of-14 shooting, including eight 3-pointers.
Combined, the duo matched the point total of the entire Illinois team, with 74.
“We played with great pace, we shared the ball (and) we shot it well. We were extremely efficient,” OSU coach Kevin McGuff said. “There’s not much more I could ask for in terms of how our offense went today.”
The Buckeyes are now on a season-high 11-game win streak and still hold sole possession of first place in the Big Ten.
Before their final game at the Schott began, Alston, along with fellow senior Cait Craft and redshirt junior Kalpana Beach, were recognized for their contributions to the program over the course of their careers.
The emotional pregame turned into a high-powered first-quarter offense for the Buckeyes. The Fighting Illini held their own through the first five minutes, but quickly fell behind by double digits when the Scarlet and Gray turned to their full-court press defense.
The Buckeyes finished the first quarter with 37 points, 16 of which were dropped in by the nation’s fifth-leading scorer, Mitchell.
OSU followed up its first quarter outburst with another offensively charged 10 minutes. An array of Buckeyes contributed to the second-quarter barrage.
By the half, the lead had bloomed to 27 points as the Buckeyes owned a 67-40 advantage heading into the locker room. It marked the highest-scoring first half of the season for the Buckeyes. The Scarlet and Gray’s big lead was due in part to impressive team 3-point shooting effort, as they connected on 11 of their 18 attempts. At the midway point, Mitchell had 25 points for the Buckeyes on a nearly perfect 8-of-9 shooting. Alston added 19 points of her own.
Although the Buckeyes maintained control for the vast majority of the game, Craft said she is still focused on what the team can improve on heading toward the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
“I feel that offense is something our team has, even when we’re not hitting shots, we find other ways to score,” Craft said, “Defensively is where we really need to work.”
OSU showed no signs of rust coming off the break as it continued to add onto its already-impressive lead. No single player took control in the third period, but just about everyone who checked in meshed with the others and helped create scoring opportunities. At the conclusion of the third period, the Buckeyes were in control by 44 points.
In the closing quarter, the Buckeyes held their own, maintaining their massive lead and spreading out playing time. The three players recognized before the game subbed out just before the end of the final quarter and were given a big round of applause by the home crowd.
“I think we were really dialed in,” Alston said. “I feel like that’s how the game should be. When you make it fun and everyone is scoring it becomes contagious.”
The Buckeyes are set to get back in action Wednesday on the road against Minnesota (18-9, 10-6). Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.