March 6, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS – Ameryst Alston scored 20 of her game-high 30 points in the second half to lead No. 8 seed Ohio State to an 86-77 win over No. 9 Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten tournament Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Ohio State advances to Friday’s quarterfinals and will face No. 1 seed Penn State at Noon ET. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
Alston was backed by the superb play of seniors Darryce Moore and Martina Ellerbe, who each recorded double-doubles – 19 points and 10 rebounds for Moore and 16 points and a career-high 13 boards for Ellerbe. The 30-point game was Alston’s fourth of the season and her third in the past five games.
Ohio State hit a season-high 11 three-point field goals – four each from Alston and Ellerbe – and made 19 of 20 from the line.
It was a wild final 6 minutes as the lead changed hands four times and was tied on four occasions. But with less than 2 minutes remaining, Ohio State took control. After a runner off the glass by Alston, Ellerbe picked off a Wildcat pass in the lane and would hit her fourth three-pointer of the game 20 seconds later to give Ohio State a 78-73 lead with 1:24 left. The Buckeyes went 8 of 8 from the foul line – four coming from Alston – to put the game away.
The Buckeyes, who held Northwestern without a field goal for the first 5 minutes of the game, led 35-23 after a Cait Craft three-pointer with 5:06 remaining in the first half before the Wildcats went on a 16-0 run and lead 39-35 at the break. Ohio State missed its final nine shots of the half and Northwestern’s Nia Coffey hit a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give the Wildcats the momentum going into the second half.
But Ohio State regrouped at halftime and never let the Northwestern lead grow to more than six. Ohio State shot 15 of 16 from the line and 50 percent from three to help them pull out the victory.
Craft added eight points for the Buckeyes while Raven Ferguson had seven.
Ohio State has now won 23 of the past 25 games with Northwestern while head coach Kevin McGuff improves to 18-7 all-time in conference tournament games.