Snow was a concern in Piscataway, New Jersey, along with the rest of the East Coast, but the Big Ten matchup between No. 7 Ohio State (14-4, 6-1) and Rutgers (12-7, 3-4) women’s basketball played on regardless.
The Buckeyes and Scarlet Knights battled throughout the entire 40 minutes of play. With preparation being essential in the midst of the conference schedule, the Scarlet and Gray exhibited that they were the primed team, winning 67-58.
Coming into the matchup, the Scarlet Knights led the Big Ten in scoring defense while the Buckeyes led in scoring offense, making it an intriguing battle on paper and, initially, in reality.
It took a couple possessions for the Buckeyes to warm up to the Louis Brown Athletic Center environment, but once they got in a groove, they began to get back to their exemplary scoring ways.
Rutgers was right behind the Buckeyes in the first quarter, forcing OSU to earn all of its points, and offensively being patient for high-quality shots. Both teams shot over 50 percent from the field in the first, showcasing fantastic efficiency.
With the lead changing 10 times, neither team was able to go on a run in the second quarter. The Scarlet Knights limited the Buckeyes from their bread-and-butter high-velocity transition offense, forcing them to slow the ball down and run a halfcourt set. Although OSU’s sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell was able to create her own shots, netting 14 points in the half, the scoring sensation likes to get her team involved on the fast break.
Rutgers’ first-half offense was dedicated to running through its set plays and finishing in the paint. Senior forward Kahleah Copper brought in eight points in the first half, shooting 4-of-6 from the field, as well as grabbing nine rebounds. When the Buckeyes were able to protect the paint, the Scarlet Knights found sophomore guard Shrita Parker for open shots at the 3-point line. Parker ended the half with eight points also and converted both of her attempts from behind the arc.
The third quarter told a different tale, as OSU picked up its scoring. With Rutgers coming out spotlighting Mitchell, the second half of the Buckeyes’ backcourt scoring duo, senior guard Ameryst Alston, took her turn in putting points on the board. Alston’s seventh point of the game surpassed the 1,900-point mark for her career, an impressive milestone for any collegiate basketball player. With 10 games still to play in the regular season, 2,000 career points is practical in her last crusade wearing scarlet and gray.
Going into the closing quarter, OSU led by 17 points and did not have any intentions of letting the Scarlet Knights make their way back into the game.
Applying full-court pressure to start the quarter established the Buckeyes presence and momentum, eliminating the Scarlet Knight productivity with their multiple half-court set plays.
Once coach Kevin McGuff took off the full-court press, Rutgers immediately took advantage, cutting the lead down to single digits with fewer than five minutes to play in the game.
Rather than a shift in momentum, the small run that Rutgers went on was simply a scare, as the Buckeyes were able to put a hold on the Scarlet Knights in the final minutes of play.
Mitchell finished the game with 22 points, shooting 8-for-15 from the field in the matinee. Alston and sophomore forward Alexa Hart each accumulated 15 points, with Hart grabbing eight rebounds and Alston dishing out five assists.
Rutgers had four players scoring in double digits, being led by Copper with 18 points and 13 rebounds. The sniper from 3-point land, Parker, ended with 13 points getting 12 of those points off of trey balls. Junior guard Tyler Scaife and redshirt senior Briyona Canty each chipped in 11 points.
The Buckeyes are next scheduled to travel back home to Columbus looking to continue their winning streak against the Northwestern Wildcats (13-6, 2-5). The last time OSU lost was at Northwestern on Jan. 14. Thursday, the rock is set to be tossed up for tip off in the Schottenstein Center at 7 p.m.