The last time Northwestern women’s basketball team won a game was on Jan. 14 when it upset then No. 5 Ohio State at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Wildcats have since lost three straight, but looked to reverse their fortunes with a visit to Columbus on Thursday night.
The visiting ’Cats weren’t so fortunate this time around, as the revenge-hungry Ohio State Buckeyes prevailed 76-73 in a hard-fought contest.
The first quarter saw the two sides trade baskets throughout, before NU seemed to separate themselves, leading 18-13 after one. The Wildcats maintained their advantage in the second period, as well, never trailing and leading 34-30 at halftime. Northwestern outshot the Buckeyes 39 percent to 32 percent from the field in first half, while also going 4-for-8 on three-point attempts, compared to the Buckeyes’ 4-for-13.
The key to the Wildcat’s first half success, though, was largely predicated on slowing down Ohio State's star sophomore guard, and third-leading scorer in the NCAA, Kelsey Mitchell. At the half, Mitchell had only 1 point on 0-for-8 shooting, missing all six of her three-point attempts.
Mitchell averages 25.2 points per game on the season, while shooting 41.6 percent from three-point land. She wouldn’t be kept down for long though, as she finished the game with 27 points, keyed by a 7-for-9 effort from the free throw line.
The Buckeyes came out of the gate hot in the second half, going on a 13-4 run in the opening 4:07 of the third quarter. But the Wildcats had an answer, bursting out with a 14-0 run of their own to put them up 52-43 with 1:07 left in the quarter.
But in the fourth quarter, Mitchell truly woke up.
Two quick threes from the sophomore keyed an 8-0 Ohio State run to put the Buckeyes up 58-57 with 7:36 to play.
NU stayed competitive in the closing minutes, but the hustle that contributed to so many of their big plays and sequences throughout the game turned to sloppiness late, as the Wildcats turned the ball over four times in the final 3:59 of the game. Ohio State utilized efficient free throw shooting (15-for-19, 78.9 percent) to close out the 'Cats.
Nia Coffey led NU in scoring with 23 and also contributed 9 rebounds. Christen Inman added 18, and Maggie Lyon scored 14 with each of them hitting two three pointers in the loss. Freshman forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah once again flashed her potential with a 16 rebound performance, while adding 6 points on 3-for-4 shooting.
The game perfectly displayed two teams going in completely opposite directions since their first meeting. For NU (13-8, 2-7 B1G), a team on the fringe of NCAA Tournament consideration at this point, it’s a painful loss. They currently sit at 12th in the Big Ten. The win marks Ohio State’s (16-4, 8-1 B1G) fourth straight victory since their fateful visit to Welsh-Ryan. They now move them into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten, pushing them in front of second-place Maryland.
NU will look to bounce back and turn its season around when they host the Iowa Hawkeyes (14-7, 4-5 B1G) on Sunday in Evanston. It’s do or die time for the ’Cats if they have any hopes of dancing this March.