After coming off of a brutal loss in which Ohio State let South Florida junior guard Kitija Laksa drop 41 points on it in an 84-65 loss, the team’s main focus was to bounce back — and bounce back it did.
No. 16 Ohio State (21-6, 10-3 Big Ten) went on the road and beat Illinois (9-18, 0-13 Big Ten) by a commanding score of 88-69. The Buckeyes received a lot of production from senior guard Kelsey Mitchell and redshirt senior Linnae Harper. Mitchell finished with 28 points, while Harper added a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Ohio State’s strong third quarter proved to be the difference maker. After a rough end to the first quarter and strong second quarter, Ohio State finished the third quarter outscoring Illinois 28-15. Heading into the fourth quarter, Mitchell had 21 points with the Buckeyes up 66-48.
The Buckeyes came out of the gates strong, quickly jumping out to a 13-4 lead to start the first quarter thanks to a couple of Mitchell 3-pointers. That lead quickly disappeared when Illinois closed out the quarter on a 17-3 run to take a 21-16 lead after one quarter.
The Buckeyes again jumped out to a strong start in the second quarter to regain a double-digit lead. However, Illinois clawed its way back into the quarter and made its halftime deficit a manageable seven points, 38-31. Ohio State’s lead at the break would have been larger had Illinois junior forward Alex Wittinger been held in check. Heading into the second half, Wittinger had 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting with eight rebounds. Wittinger finished with a double-double, 30 points and 16 rebounds.
After the third quarter, the Buckeyes cruised the rest of the way. Illinois trailed significantly while Mitchell continued to drain basket after basket in the fourth. After going down 21-16, the Buckeyes outscored Illinois 67-53 the rest of the way.
With three games remaining in conference play, Ohio State will look to close out the regular season strong heading into the Big Ten Tournament. It returns home to face Purdue for Senior Night at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Schottenstein Center.