Rutgers stayed within striking distance of the No. 13 Ohio State women’s basketball team for the majority of the first quarter and trailed by just one point when Buckeye head coach Kevin McGuff called a timeout with two minutes remaining. Ohio State responded from that timeout with a 35-15 run to cruise into halftime with what proved to be an insurmountable 51-30 lead.
The Buckeyes rode their early lead to a 90-68 victory against the Scarlet Knights Thursday night at the Schottenstein Center.
During the first-half run, Ohio State (20-5, 9-3 Big Ten) hit six 3-pointers. The Buckeyes went 11-for-22 from beyond the arc and hit 56 percent of their shots. They held Rutgers (18-8, 6-6 Big Ten) to just 39 percent shooting. Rutgers went 4-of-19 from 3.
“We started getting some stops and then the stops were leading to transition basketball,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said. “I thought that’s what really allowed us to kind of get some separation in the game.”
Senior guard Kelsey Mitchell had a team-high 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting. She hit 5-of-6 triples.
Five other Buckeyes scored in double-figures, including redshirt junior forward Stephanie Mavunga, who dropped 12 points and corralled a game-high 13 rebounds. Redshirt junior guard Sierra Calhoun hit 3-of-5 3s and scored 17 points.
Ohio State entered the game ranked first in the Big Ten in turnover ratio, but Rutgers followed closely behind, ranking second in the conference. The Scarlet Knights proved to be no match in terms of ball control for the majority of the first half, however. The Buckeyes held a 14-12 turnover advantage and scored 25 points off turnovers.
“People have different philosophies, but we’re really aggressive when we turn somebody over,” McGuff said. “I thought our kids made good decisions, too, in transition about shot selection. Sometimes you can get going kind of fast and take bad shots, but I didn’t think we did that tonight.”
Ohio State’s win against Rutgers was its fourth victory in a row and the fourth game it held its opponents to 68 points or fewer.
This is the lowest opponents have scored in a four-game stretch since McGuff was hired five seasons ago. The win streak comes following a three-game losing streak in which the Buckeyes gave up 84 points to Michigan, 99 points to Maryland and 103 points to Iowa.
“I personally think the losing streak that we were on motivated us to do better and separate ourselves from our opponents,” redshirt senior guard Linnae Harper said. “We just looked back, watched some film and tried to get better from those games. It’s been showing for the last four games.”
The Buckeyes assisted on 20 of their made shots. Though senior guard Asia Doss struggled with her shot (1-for-7), she led the game with seven assists.
Senior guard Tyler Scaife, the only Scarlet Knight who averaged more than seven points per game entering the contest, led Rutgers with 27 points. But she hit just 12-of-27 shots from the field.
Rutgers held a hefty 40-32 rebound edge. The Scarlet Knights nearly had as many offensive rebounds (24) as the Buckeyes had defensive rebounds (21). This led to the visiting team scoring 21 second-chance points. McGuff said the Buckeyes struggled to get a body on Rutgers’ rebounders and that his team played more zone than usual, which was effective when defending, but not when rebounding.
With redshirt junior forward Makayla Waterman day-to-day and sitting out with a neck injury Wednesday’s game, Ohio State added sophomore guard Jensen Caretti to its eight-person rotation. She scored two points in 14 minutes.
The Buckeyes will be back in action at 2 p.m. Sunday when they take on South Florida in an unusual non-conference road game late in the season.