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Women’s basketball: Ohio State’s offense returns in 88-64 rout over Illinois

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Ohio State junior forward Alexa Hart attempts a jump shot in the first half against Illinois at the Schottenstein Center on. Jan. 22. Credit: Jacob Myers | Assistant Sports Editor

The Ohio State women’s basketball team has struggled this season in terms of playing with consistency from quarter to quarter. But Thursday’s nine-point victory against Wisconsin was a night-and-day difference between Sunday’s game.

Ohio State’s high-scoring offense returned on Sunday with 15 3-pointers, defeating Illinois 88-64 to improve to 17-5 and 7-1 in Big Ten play. The Fighting Illini dropped to 8-12 overall, 3-4 in conference.

“We looked like our self a little bit more today,” said OSU coach Kevin McGuff.

In the Buckeyes last three games, they have been scoring below their season average of 86.3 ppg by at least 10 points. However, the tone was different this game.

Led by junior guard Kelsey Mitchell who picked up 22 points with two rebounds and six assists, OSU put together a cohesive effort against the Illini. Redshirt sophomore guard Sierra Calhoun added 11, and junior guard Asia Doss and freshman guard Kiara Lewis had 10.

OSU always plays better when Mitchell has a good day from the field (7 for 14, 6 of 12 from 3), but her production also benefitted others — something that hasn’t always been the case for the Buckeyes.

“Everybody was focused on Kelsey and it left other people open, and we hit open shots,” Lewis said.

Illinois came off the tip scoring three straight field goals. However, the quick burst of momentum did not last long, as the Buckeyes proceeded to score 13 straight points midway through the quarter.

“We moved the ball, we made the extra pass much more today,” McGuff said.

Illinois came out in a 2-3 zone, which OSU quickly dissected, finding open players around the arc, helping contribute to four straight made shots from downtown. A 43.8 percent mark from the field gave OSU a lead at the end of the first it would never relinquish.

The Buckeyes started the second quarter a little slow, but were able to find their rhythm ending the quarter with four straight 3s in the last minute. OSU ended the quarter on a 12-2 run. It started when McGuff went with a bigger lineup having junior forward Alexa Hart, redshirt junior forward Stephanie Mavunga and Calhoun all on the floor. Hart scored a bucket in the paint followed by Mavunga. This brought in the zone for Illinois where junior guard Kelsey Mitchell proceeded to hit three straight triples and assist on the final 3 by Asia Doss before the half.

OSU ended the second quarter with a 12-2 run as the team’s went to the locker room for halftime.

OSU came out of the third quarter playing at a different intensity than Illinois. The Buckeyes were able to score from all angles — the free throw line, behind the arc, in the paint and off the fast break.

Offensively, an up-tempo approach of pushing the ball on the fast break and capitalizing off of layups as well as fouls from driving inside kept the game well in hand late. Eventually, OSU ended the quarter going on another huge run, this time 23-4.

“Our full court pressure really wore on them,” McGuff said. “You could see them wear down as the game went (on).”

Mitchell took a hard fall along the sideline in the third, appearing to cut open her lip during her stumble out of bounds. After heading to the locker room, she came back on the court to finish the game.

Four different OSU players scored double figures. Additionally, 34 points came from the bench and 14 off of the fast break.

The Buckeyes shot 45 percent from both the field and behind the arc. OSU will continue Big Ten play at Minnesota on Thursday at 8 p.m.

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