INDIANAPOLIS — The No. 9 Ohio State women’s basketball team (26-5) is heading to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, dominating ninth seed Northwestern 99-68. The Buckeyes tied the tournament record for most points scored, set by themselves against Penn State in 2014.
The Buckeyes were led in points and assists by Big Ten Player of the Year junior guard Kelsey Mitchell with 27 points and four assists. Mitchell historically has dominated in the Big Ten Tournament averaging close to 30 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game.
Mitchell was followed by senior forward Shayla Cooper, who scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Ohio State started off the first quarter with a quick pace. Mitchell was the first to put points on the board, hitting a deep three.
“Coach put a really big emphasis on coming out strong from the gate,” Cooper said. “Like you said, we had four days off, a lot of time in the gym to get better. And we just took this game as a step forward to get better … We wanted to get out running, because we knew they played yesterday,”
Mitchell wasted no time getting onto the score sheet, nailing the first shot of the game from 3. The Buckeyes, then, went into their full court press, and caused fits for Northwestern. OSU was able to get its hands on the ball and force Northwestern to turn the ball over eight times in the first, holding Northwestern to just 26.7 percent shooting from the field. On offense, the Buckeyes found their mark early, hitting 4-of-6 shots from beyond the arc in the first.
“It was always going right for our team,” Mitchell said. “I think we jumped out really aggressively on the defensive end. It put us in a good position to take off in the right time, and get ourselves right.”
OSU’s defense continued to disrupt Northwestern in the second quarter, forcing another eight turnovers and getting some of the Wildcats in foul trouble. Northwestern’s leading scorers senior forward Nia Coffey and senior guard Ashley Deary were called for three fouls before halftime.
Offensively, the Buckeyes continued to shoot hot from deep. OSU hit nine shots from the 3-point line before the half. The Buckeyes had offensive output from their whole team, with nine players getting on the scoreboard before the half.
In the second half, OSU continued its pace of play, showing consistency that has been absent at times this season. The Buckeyes also dominated the Wildcats in rebounding with freshman forward Tori McCoy dominating the glass, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking four shots.
Bench play was a key for OSU throughout, as junior forward Alexa Hart and redshirt junior guard Linae Harper each picked up 11 points.
“I think our bench in general really gave us a huge lift today,” said OSU coach Kevin McGuff.
Northwestern was led by Coffey, who fouled out with five minutes left in the last quarter of play. Coffey scored 21 points and had eight rebounds and a block. She was followed by Deary with 13 points, six rebounds and three assists.
The Buckeyes will look to carry their momentum into the semifinal game, facing either No. 5 seed Purdue or No. 4 seed Indiana at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Nicholas McWilliams contributed quotes from Indianapolis.