The surging Ohio State women’s basketball team (18-4, 10-1) handled a struggling Wisconsin team (6-15, 2-9) with a suffocating defensive performance Thursday night to keep the train running smoothly into the highly anticipated matchup with No. 5 Maryland on Monday.
Coming into the matchup against the Badgers, the Buckeyes had won 13 of their last 14 games overall. The 87-61 victory pushed No. 7 OSU’s home winning streak to 11 games, while the Badgers have now dropped nine of their last 10 games overall.
OSU coach Kevin McGuff said he was satisfied with the way each member of the team immediately found their individual roles and contributed in the contest.
“We had good communication, good concentration, good effort,” McGuff said. “Everybody (that) came off the bench knew exactly what we were in. They were locked in and focused.”
The Scarlet and Gray started the game off slow, plagued by poor shooting. But that all changed with a little over two minutes left in the first quarter. The Buckeyes scored 11 of their 19 first-quarter points in that short amount of time, aided by a trio of 3-pointers.
The momentum OSU created carried over into the second period. The Buckeyes quickly jumped out to a double-digit lead and started to step it up on defense. The lead blossomed to 20 points midway through the quarter, but a late surge pushed the Badgers back to a 13-point deficit at the break.
In the opening half, senior guard Ameryst Alston led the way for OSU with 12 points, while junior forward Shayla Cooper added 10 points along with seven rebounds. The nation’s third-leading scorer, sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell, was held to only three points in the first half but found other ways to help her team out. For the Badgers, Cayla McMorris and Michala Johnson each put in eight points.
While the Buckeyes held a steady lead at the break, they saw the opportunity to put the game away early with a lopsided third quarter, and did just that.
“The third quarter was as good a defensive quarter as we’ve had probably all year,” McGuff said.
The Buckeyes held Wisconsin to only seven points in the entire third period, pressuring the Badgers into shooting only 18.2 percent from the field. Using the full-court press to their advantage, the Buckeyes put together a lockdown team effort throughout the 10 minutes.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Buckeyes headed off the floor with heads held high. Alston was the leading scorer for OSU with 21 points, while Mitchell, who had a strong second half shooting the ball, added 16. Cooper earned her sixth double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds, as well.
Nine different OSU players saw the floor, eight of whom scored in the game, displaying an ability and a willingness to get everyone involved.
“I think that’s what’s so special about our team. We have so many different aspects (and) a lot of us can contribute,” Alston said. “It’s always great to see (different) people out there playing.”
Continuing Big Ten play, the streaking Buckeyes are scheduled to take on Maryland at home Monday, which is scheduled for a 9 p.m. tipoff.