The No. 16 Ohio State women's handled business Sunday afternoon, trouncing conference-foe Nebraska 95-75 thanks to stifling defense and great passing.
In previous seasons, Ohio State has relied on its offense to simply outscore opponents while giving up huge numbers on the defensive end. With the Buckeyes' fast-paced style of play, that still happens, but the difference this season is when shots aren't falling an the team needs to lean on its defense, it can.
In the first quarter, Ohio State couldn't seem to hit anything from the field. The team shot under 25 percent from the field for most of the quarter and missed its first nine shots from behind the arc.
"In the first half, I thought we were really moving the ball and getting great shots," Ohio State head coach McGuff said. "But we weren't making a lot of shots we normally make."
|34-73 (47%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||28-63 (44%)|
|8-26 (35%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||8-23 (35%)|
|19-28 (68%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||11-14 (79%)|
With the offense struggling, the defense stepped up, forcing 11 turnovers in the quarter and holding the Huskers to just 10 points.
"We came out and we had a lot of energy defensively, we just we couldn't make any shots to create some separation in the game" McGuff said. "Our approach defensively and their effort and intensity and focus was where it needed to be."
"I think everything about our defense is getting better," Kelsey Mitchell echoed.
Eventually, the offense came alive, and it was a team effort. Three different Buckeyes put up double figures, all twelve players scored points and the team had a 23 assists – the most its had in Big Ten play this season.
"Right now I think we've improved in that area significantly," McGuff said. "Against man or zone, we're just moving the ball a lot better and that's what we need to be doing."
During the game, Kelsey Mitchell also became the school's third all-time leading-scorer, and in a unsurprisingly deflected all praise after the game.
"Well, I don't think I played well," Mitchell said with a smile. "So that really doesn't matter. I'm happy that we won, and that's all I have to say about that question."
Truthfully though, she did play well; she was probably the best player on the court. As the team's scoring machine, she of course got her points, putting up a team-high 22, but she was also dishing out dimes. She finished with a season-high seven assists – just one shy of her career mark.
"I get a great, great, great pleasure out of making sure I see my teammates happy," Mitchell said. "A lot of people may not know that about me, but I really love to get people involved and make people feel like they're a huge part of the team – which I think they are."
The Buckeyes entered the season as a favorite to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, but struggled to find its form early on. Now, the team has now won five-straight games, appears to finally be clicking on all cylinders and is in prime position to make a run at a Big Ten Title, but Mitchell knows there's still plenty of room to improve.
"I'm always a hard critic on myself and the people I'm surrounded by," Mitchell said. "I think there's a lot of work to still be done."
"I'm not going to say we can't be in that conversation because I feel like I'm surrounded by a good team. But like I said, there's always room for improvement – from myself on down.
The Buckeyes came out about as cold possible from the field. The team missed its first nine three-pointers and shot under 25 percent for most of the first quarter. With the shots not falling, the Buckeyes forced 11 turnovers and held Nebraska to just 10 points in the first quarter. The turnovers finally led to points at the other end and Ohio State closed the quarter on a 10-0 run to take a 19-10 lead into the second.
The teams traded buckets most of the second quarter. The Buckeyes were much better offensively, making most of their open shots, but the Huskers were too and they only turned the ball over twice in the quarter. As a result, neither team ever got on much of a run and Ohio State led 51-39 at the half.
In the second half, Ohio State took over. The Buckeyes shot 66 percent from the field in the third quarter, outscoring Nebraska 29-17 in the quarter to take control of the game. From that point on, Ohio State coasted to a 95-75 victory.
With the win, Ohio State improves its record to 19-5 overall and 8-1 in the conference. The Buckeyes return to the court Wednesday when they play host to Penn State at 7 p.m.