Ohio State women’s basketball struggled to produce offense in the second half Tuesday, dropping its final home game of the season.
Ohio State (17-11, 10-7 Big Ten) lost its second straight game after winning six in a row prior, falling to No. 14 Northwestern (25-3, 15-2) 69-55.
“We weren’t able to take advantage of our opportunities,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said. “The ball just didn’t go in for us.”
The Buckeye offense struggled with Northwestern’s No. 2-ranked conference defense as it shot just 34.5 percent from the field. The Wildcats were active on the ball, forcing 15 Buckeye turnovers.
Ohio State scored just 22 points in the final two frames and shot 25 percent in the second half. Fourth-quarter struggles carried over from its loss to Rutgers — where the Buckeyes failed to make a field goal in the final frame — as it went just 2-for-11 from the field in the final 10 minutes.
“We couldn’t score against their zone,” sophomore forward Dorka Juhasz said. “Our shots just didn’t fall.”
Juhasz led the way for the Buckeyes with her third straight double-double, bringing her season total to seven. Juhasz finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Freshman guard Jacy Sheldon put up 12 points while making an impact on the defensive end with two steals.
The Buckeyes hung around through the first two-and-a-half quarters, but a 9-0 run in the final minute and a half of the third extended the Northwestern lead to 11 heading into the fourth, a lead the Buckeyes could not find their way back from.
“We had some breakdowns defensively,” McGuff said. “We got tired down the stretch.”
Fatigue was a concern for the Buckeyes coming into this game, McGuff said earlier in the week, as this was their second game in three days.
Northwestern senior center Abi Scheid led the way for the Wildcats, finishing the game with a team-high 19 points on 7-for-11 from the field. Her impact was felt from the 3-point line, where she shot a scorching 5-for-7.
“We have to give her credit,” Juhasz said. “She was making every shot, behind the screens and contested shots.”
Ohio State kept ESPNW National Player of the Week and Northwestern junior guard Lindsey Pulliam in check in the first half, holding her to just seven points.
Pulliam found her rhythm in the second half as she finished the game with 16 points including a buzzer-beating 3 to close the third and push the momentum to the Wildcats’ side.
“She has a really high release and makes really crazy shots,” Juhasz said. “She just got in rhythm.”
The Buckeyes were once again without freshman guard Kierstan Bell, a three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week this season. Bell missed Saturday’s game for personal reasons, and McGuff said they did not want to rush her back into action too soon.
Ohio State put its lone senior, forward Savitha Jayaraman, into the game for the final 44 seconds at the Schottenstein Center. She had been sidelined the entire season due to a bulging disk in her back.
With the loss, the Buckeyes can no longer obtain a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament as they fell to a game and a half behind Indiana with just one game remaining.
The Buckeyes are looking ahead to Purdue, as they’ll try to avoid ending the regular season on a three-game losing streak.
“It’s really hard to play [at Purdue],” Juhasz said. “We just have to look forward, have great practices over the next few days and give everything we have.”
The Buckeyes and Boilermakers tip off at 4 p.m. Saturday in West Lafayette, Indiana.