For the first time since the 2009-10 season, the Ohio State women’s basketball team is atop the Big Ten conference.
The No. 12 ranked Buckeyes defeated Rutgers 73-45 in Piscataway, N.J. on Feb. 26 to earn a share of the conference regular season crown with Maryland. Because Ohio State won the lone matchup between the two schools on Feb. 20, OSU will be the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament for the first time since 2010.
The Buckeyes (25-5, 15-1) took a 20 point lead into halftime against the Scarlet Knights despite scoring only 37 first half points, just two more than their first quarter output against the Terps six days prior. Although Ohio State struggled to score at times, its defense stifled the Scarlet Knights who committed 21 turnovers as OSU converted those giveaways into 22 points.
Twice in the third quarter Rutgers was able to cut Ohio State’s lead to just 14 following a plethora of three point shots. Each time, the Buckeyes answered with three-point plays of their own. After the Scarlet Knights cut the lead to 39-25, OSU guard Linnae Harper collected a steal and a layup while also drawing a foul.
After Harper made the free throw, Rutgers was able to once again bring the score to 14 before Ohio State junior guard Kelsey Mitchell scored three of her game high 21 points on a long range jumper to extend OSU’s lead to 47-30 with 4:01 to play in the third quarter.
The 28 point final margin was the largest lead of the game as OSU closed out its 11th straight win in convincing fashion.
After shooting a blistering 77 percent from the floor in the first quarter against Maryland six days earlier, Ohio State came out sluggish offensively against the Scarlet Knights with the Big Ten title on the line.
The Buckeyes shot just 33.3 percent from the floor in the first quarter and turned the ball over four times in the opening frame. However, Rutgers (6-23, 3-12) struggled as well in the first, shooting just 2 of 13 from the floor while also turning it over nine times as Ohio State took an 18-6 lead into the second quarter.
Mitchell, who dropped 31 points on 11 of 18 shooting against No. 2 Maryland, scored seven first quarter points but failed to find the bottom of the net in the second as other Buckeyes stepped up on the scoring end.
Ohio State’s lone senior Shayla Cooper scored her 1,000th career point in the first quarter as she knocked in a straight away three-pointer early on in the contest. She entered the day with 999 career points and had nine points by half. She finished with 12 points to go along with seven boards.
The Buckeyes continued to struggle to score in the second quarter, shooting just 6 of 16, but stifled the lowly Knights on the defensive end as Rutgers shot just 22.2 percent from the floor in the first half.
Ohio State got solid performances off the bench from both Alexa Hart and Asia Doss. Hart grabbed 10 rebounds to go along with two points while Doss scored nine. Sierra Calhoun chipped in 10 as well for the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes are set to open Big Ten tournament play on March 3 at noon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.