Ohio State notched its third-straight victory Saturday with a 68-55 win over Wisconsin at the Kohl Center.
The tone of the game shifted dramatically, however, near the end of the third quarter after a neck injury scare involving redshirt junior forward Makayla Waterman.
Waterman made the trip back to Columbus with the team — she said “everything’s OK” while wearing a neck brace in a video published to the team’s Twitter account Saturday evening — but her injury in a fall had brought the arena to a hush during a 15-minute delay.
Even better news than the W. #thankful #home pic.twitter.com/2l7UHOWxn0— OSU W Basketball (@OhioState_WBB) February 4, 2018
With 2:08 left in the quarter, the redshirt junior made contact with a Wisconsin player and took a hard hit to the neck. She lay face down for minutes while she was evaluated by Ohio State medical personnel before being placed on a stretcher and later into an ambulance. Several Ohio State players, in tears, walked over to comfort Waterman before she was taken away.
Coach Kevin McGuff said in a phone interview after the game that Waterman was moving all her limbs before she left the arena.
Ohio State issued an update from athletic trainer Chalisa Fonza indicating that Waterman had been taken to a hospital for “precautionary evaluation.” It’s not immediately clear when Waterman will be able to play again.
There is nothing that prepares coaches and players for a sudden, serious moment like Waterman’s, but the Buckeyes, with a 41-38 lead and a rotation of six, still had 12 minutes to play. McGuff’s message to his team touched on Waterman, who had two points, four rebounds and three steals in 12 minutes.
“The biggest thing was that Makayla was playing extremely hard while she was on the floor,” he said. “That would be a real disservice to her if we don’t go out there and play hard for her, since she can’t be with us.”
The No. 18 Buckeyes (19-5, 8-3 Big Ten) responded in the fourth quarter by finding a pace and intensity they had largely lacked in the third, opening the quarter on a 9-2 run and pushing their lead to 53-41 on a Linnae Harper layup with 7:31 to play.
Ohio State scored on four straight possessions — including two baskets on jumpers from Kelsey Mitchell — from the 3:42 mark to 1:58 remaining to push the lead to 16 and partly erase what McGuff called a “choppy” performance.
“We were inconsistent with our effort and concentration, and during those times, we just didn’t look very good,” he said. “We had some stretches where we were good; we just didn’t sustain it.”
Stephanie Mavunga led Ohio State with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Mitchell had 16 points and Harper 15. The Badgers’ Marsha Howard scored 20 and Cayla McMorris had 15.
With 3:29 left in the first quarter, during a 16-0 Ohio State run, Mitchell made a straightaway three-pointer to give her 81 consecutive games with a three, setting an NCAA record. She broke the Division I and all-division records for career three-point field goals earlier this season.
Ohio State returns to Value City Arena on Thursday to play Rutgers.