Ohio State grabbed a key conference win in front of a sea of pink as Pink Day was celebrated at the Schottenstein Center Sunday.
Ohio State (14-9, 7-5 Big Ten) obtained its first three-game win streak of the season, beating Wisconsin (11-13, 3-10) 82-74.
The Buckeyes switched up their starting line-up for the first time in ten games, swapping in freshman forward Rebeka Mikulasikova for sophomore forward Dorka Juhasz, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, who is dealing with an ankle injury she sustained against Illinois.
Mikulasikova did not disappoint her in her first career start, putting up 12 points alongside five rebounds.
“[Rebeka] did a really good job,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said. “She had some big baskets.”
Freshman guard Kierstan Bell once again led the Buckeye reserves, filling the stat sheet with her second career double-double. She had a career-high 20 points alongside 10 rebounds.
Bell didn’t just contribute as a scorer, however. She tied her career high in assists with six, and added three steals and a pair of blocks.
“I think this was my performance [of the season],” Bell said. “I felt really good today.”
Sophomore forward Aaliyah Patty added a season-high 16 points despite early foul trouble.
Sophomore guard Janai Crooms gave the Buckeyes their largest lead of the game early in the fourth quarter as she went on a personal 6-0 run to extend the Buckeye lead to 72-54. Crooms finished the game with 14 points and four assists off of the bench.
“I thought Janai was outstanding today,” McGuff said. “Especially getting out in transition and making plays, she got to the rim and finished and distributed the ball.”
Wisconsin made a few late-game runs, but could not cut the lead to below eight.
Bell and Crooms contributed to a 36-8 bench scoring advantage that played a key factor in the Buckeyes victory.
“The subs had to come in and bring the energy,” Bell said.
The Buckeyes outpaced the Badgers throughout the game, outscoring them in fastbreak points 22-4. McGuff credited much of the Buckeyes transition offense to the aggressive play of Crooms.
Ohio State lived in the Badger passing lanes, forcing 18 turnovers while scoring 22 points off of the Wisconsin errors.
The Badgers’ frontcourt kept them in the game. Senior forward Abby Laszewski had a career-high 26 points on a scorching 73 percent from the field. Sophomore forward Imani Lewis, the Badgers’ leading scorer, added 12 points of her own.
“They were really beating us up around the basket,” McGuff said. “They were shooting [a lot] of five-footers, so we had to clean up and make adjustments there and I thought we did a better job in the second half.”
Wisconsin senior guard Kendra Van Leeuwen also turned in a strong performance, stuffing the stat sheet with 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
The Badgers struggled to get anything going from beyond the arc, taking only 8 attempts and failing to make a single three.
McGuff said the team needs to continue to get better on defense during this stretch-run to help jumpstart fastbreaks.
“Our transition offense is evolving and getting better,” McGuff said. “But we need to get the stops and steals in order to get that going.”
Ohio State is back in action at the Schottenstein Center Thursday at 7 p.m. against Minnesota.