COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Kelsey Mitchell scored one point in the first half of No. 7 Ohio State’s 76-73 win over Northwestern on Thursday night.
She finished with 27.
Nobody on the Scarlet and Gray’s sideline seemed concerned in the meantime.
”She’s so good I knew she’d turn it on when we needed it,” said Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff.
His message to her after she went 0 for 8 from the floor in the first half was, ”Just stay confident. Stay aggressive. She kind of felt like she was playing a little too fast so I said, `Go ahead and slow down but stay aggressive.”’
That turned out to be good advice.
Twice the Big Ten’s leading scorer made 3-pointers to give Ohio State one-point leads in the fourth quarter, but Northwestern quickly jumped back in front.
Then the sophomore point guard had 3 points and a steal during a 7-0 run that gave the Buckeyes the lead for good in the final two minutes.
”People like (teammate Cait Craft) and the coaches say keep shooting and they’ll fall,” said Mitchell, who ended up 8 for 23 from the field, including 4 for 13 from 3-point range. ”You can’t stop shooting or you’ll never get in a rhythm.”
Northwestern (13-8, 2-7 Big Ten) led by as many as nine in the third quarter, but the teams traded the lead five times in the fourth.
Craft and Alexa Hart scored 14 points apiece for Ohio State (16-4, 8-1) while Ameryst Alston added 11.
Craft made all five of her field-goal attempts, including a trio from 3-point range, and was part of the chorus encouraging Mitchell when her shot wasn’t falling.
”I truly believe whoever we play or wherever we’re at, Kelsey’s the best player on the court,” Craft said. ”She can miss a few shots but she’s not going to be off the entire game. And if she is, she’s going to find other ways to contribute. She made two huge 3s in the fourth quarter. She didn’t care. She just let it go. I just want her to know I’m always going to pass her the ball.”
Nia Coffey led Northwestern with 23 points while Christen Inman had 18 and Maggie Lyon scored 14.
After Lyon gave Northwestern a 67-66 lead with a pair of free throws at the 2:01 mark, Mitchell put the Buckeyes back on top with a layup.
Craft scored off an Asia Doss steal, then Mitchell made a steal at midcourt, drew a foul and made one of two free throws.
After a defensive stop, Ohio State stretched its lead to six on a putback by Hart, and Northwestern did not get closer than three the rest of the way.
Northwestern: The Wildcats had a 36-26 advantage in points in the paint.
Ohio State: Mitchell scored only one point in the first half and went 0 for 8 from the floor.
”It was just a hard-fought game. We just didn’t execute down the stretch. Ohio State did, and that was the difference in the game,” Northwestern head coach Joe McKeown.
The Buckeyes won their fourth game in a row and avenged their most recent loss, an 86-82 decision at Northwestern on Jan. 14. The Wildcats have dropped all four games they have played since.
Hart added 11 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season.
Northwestern plays host to Iowa on Sunday afternoon.
Ohio State plays at Illinois on Monday night.
Ohio State Individual Notes
Ohio State Team Notes