Ohio State went out with a bang.
Playing their last regular-season home game of the season, the Buckeyes blasted Northwestern 88-54 thanks to double-digit scoring performances from four different players.
|#14 Ohio State||28||22||16||22||88|
Fittingly, it was Kelsey Mitchell who led the way offensively in her final game in the Schottenstein Center. The school's all-time leading scorer put up a team-high 22 points on a 9-for-16 shooting performance. She left the game to a standing ovation with just over three minutes to play.
"She's been unbelievable," Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said of the Buckeye star. "It hasn't happen by accident. Every point she's scored she's earned with her work ethic and commitment to the game."
It wasn't all Mitchell, though. Ohio State displayed an incredibly balanced offensive attack from start to finish. Six different Buckeyes scored in the first quarter, and eight scored in the game. Ohio State put up 88 points offensively and the leading scorer – Mitchell – scored just 22 of those points.
"I think that's really great for us because it will keep everyone on their toes," Asia Doss said after the game. "I think a lot of people will focus on Steph [Mavunga] or Kelsey [Mitchell] or Sierra [Calhoun] for shooting, but if everyone's scoring, that will really help push the pace."
|38-63 (60%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||22-62 (35%)|
|8-17 (47%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||2-6 (33%)|
|4-6 (67%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||8-15 (53%)|
Defensively, the Buckeyes were pesky once again, forcing 19 Northwestern turnovers which they turned into 27 points in the other direction. They also held Northwestern to just 54 points and a paltry 35 percent from the field.
The 54 points is season-best defensive performance for the Buckeyes, in terms of opponent scoring. It was the first time this season Ohio State held an opponent to 15 points or less in each of the four quarters.
But at times, the defense still wasn't good enough for the head coach.
"I felt like we were playing well on defense, but every time we went to a timeout, coach McGuff would say 'you guys need to be better,'" Doss said. "I'm like, 'are we really doing that bad?' I was kind of like, confused."
McGuff said there were times when he felt the team was paying to much attention to the lopsided score, and it was detrimental to their effort.
"It was one of those games where we had outstanding possessions, we really executed and played with great energy, but then we had some mental breakdowns on things we can control," McGuff said. "At this time of year, I'm really pushing for them to get those things right."
It did not take long for the Buckeyes to take control of the game. Ohio State shot an absurd 80 percent from the field and 75 percent from three point range to take a 28-13 after the first quarter. Six different players scored in the first quarter alone.
The Buckeyes extended their lead in the second half, continuing the hot shooting while stifling the Wildcats to take a 50-28 lead into the half.
With the game well at hand by the intermission, Ohio State coasted in the second half. The lead continued to grow, despite a slower third quarter from the Buckeyes, and Ohio State pulled out a 88-54 win.
This was the team's final game in the Schottenstein Center, but Ohio State could still host the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament as one of the field's top-16 teams, which would take place in St. John Arena. In the final bracket reveal before the official selection, the Buckeyes were rated as the No. 16 team – the lowest rated host team.
"You know what, I didn't even think about that," Doss said at the prospect of playing another game in Columbus. "Any time to come back and play in Columbus would be great, especially to have the fans here to our advantage and everything – it would be great."
With the win, Ohio State improves to 23-6 overall and 11-3 in Big Ten play while Northwestern falls to 10-19 and 3-12 in the conference.
The Buckeyes are in a first-place tie with Maryland in the Big Ten standings with just one game left to play, when Ohio State travels to take on Penn State at noon on Sunday. The Buckeyes are looking to secure a regular-season Big Ten title, and carry that momentum onto the post season.
"I don't even think we've peaked yet," Doss said. "We definitely haven't peaked yet, but we're going to get there."