The only thing that could stop junior guard Kelsey Mitchell on Saturday in Ohio State’s 96-68 win at Wisconsin was a lopsided game.
She scored 32 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the field in the first 28 minutes, but with the Buckeyes up 25, her high-octane scoring services were no longer needed. The junior guard sat the final 12 minutes and played just 25, her low in Big Ten play.
No. 14 Ohio State (21-5, 11-1 Big Ten) carried the torch in her absence, eclipsing 85 points for the fifth consecutive game and winning its seventh straight. Eleven Buckeyes scored.
After allowing Wisconsin (5-18, 0-10) to creep to within single digits in the fourth quarter at Value City Arena on Jan. 19, the Buckeyes continued to hold off the Badgers throughout the second half Saturday, leading by 25 or more for the final 12 minutes.
“We just had more focus this time than we did last time for closer to 40 minutes,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “Overall, a really good win for us because we had a lot of people contribute and we played hard from start to finish.”
Junior forward Stephanie Mavunga had 13 points and 11 rebounds for her second straight double-double and freshman forward Tori McCoy had 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Mitchell shot 8 of 10 for 25 first-half points. Wisconsin’s entire team had just seven first-half baskets.
Back-to-back Mitchell threes gave Ohio State a 21-7 advantage with 2:27 left in the first quarter, and the junior either scored or assisted on 24 of the Buckeyes’ 25 first-quarter points.
A three from the Kohl Center logo near the sideline gave Mitchell 20 points. Another 59 seconds later put the Buckeyes ahead 37-17 with 6:09 left in the second. It was her final shot attempt of the half, but the Buckeyes still held a 49-29 lead at the break.
“I mean, she’s unbelievable,” McGuff said of Mitchell. “She’s a great player and she was incredibly efficient today, and when she’s in a groove like she was today it’s really fun to watch.”
The Badgers shot just 22.6 percent in the opening two quarters and appeared to struggle with Ohio State’s switching between man-to-man and zone defenses.
Forward Alexa Hart, who suffered a sprained ankle early Wednesday in a win over Penn State, did not play. McGuff said he expects Hart to play next Sunday against Iowa (14-8, 5-4).
“If we really, really needed her we probably could have played her today,” McGuff said. “But once we kind of got out to a lead, I thought, ‘Hey, let’s just give her another day just to make sure we get this right.’ ”