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Women’s basketball: Ohio State clinches a share of the Big Ten title and No. 1 seed in Big Ten tournament

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Ohio State junior guard Kelsey Mitchell pulls up for a shot in the second half against Wisconsin at the Schottenstein Center on Jan. 19. Credit: Jacob Myers | Assistant Sports Editor

The 12th-ranked Ohio State women’s basketball team (25-5, 15-1) defeated Rutgers 73-45 to clinch its 15th Big Ten title. The Buckeyes stellar defense was the driving force in capturing the program’s first title since the 2009-10 season.

With Sunday’s win over the Scarlet Knights (6-23, 3-12), the Buckeyes have clinched the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament.

Sunday’s game was OSU’s first in their last eight games that the team failed to score at least 87 points. The Buckeyes usually rely on their offensive output to win their games, but it was stellar defensive play that allowed OSU to pull away with the win.

Junior guard Kelsey Mitchell led OSU with 21 points and five assists, her 10th straight game with 20 or more points. She was followed by senior forward Shayla Cooper — a player that has stepped up since the injury to junior forward Stephanie Mavunga — with 12 points and seven rebounds.

For the first few minutes of the game, OSU’s 63 percent shooting on Monday didn’t carry over, but the Buckeyes 2-2-1 press forced nine Rutgers turnovers that turned into a 15-0 run that lasted for the majority of the first quarter.

OSU continued the steady offensive pace into the second quarter with consistent outside shooting. The Buckeyes shot well from deep, hitting 50 percent in the second quarter, and knocking down four shots from 3-point range. On defense, the Buckeyes continued to throw off Rutgers, switching from a man defense to a 2-3 zone, then to a 3-2 zone. Those different looks prevented Rutgers from getting into an offensive rhythm, leading to a miserable 22 percent from the field.

The Buckeyes led 37-17 at halftime.

At the start of the third quarter, Rutgers got the ball out quickly to avoid full-court pressure and ran the ball up the floor. The Scarlet Knights hit five consecutive shots midway through the quarter and stayed in the game with 57 percent third-quarter shooting. The Buckeyes fired back by penetrating the basket, grabbing their own points from the field, and ended the quarter maintaining a 17-point lead, 53-36.

In the last quarter of play, OSU reestablished their defense and slowed down the Scarlet Knights with its full-court press. On offense, OSU outscored Rutgers 20-9 and made three 3s to keep any chance of a comeback at bay.

Ohio State is set to play the winner of No. 8 seed versus the No. 9 seed on March 3 at noon. The final Big Ten standings have yet to be determined.

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