No. 2 Ohio State rolls to 84-54 win over Northwestern with No. 10 Iowa up next

Bailey Johnson
The Columbus Dispatch
Jan 19, 2023; Columbus, OH, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes guard Taylor Mikesell (24) and forward Eboni Walker (22) celebrate a three pointer during the second half of the NCAA women's basketball game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Value City Arena. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch

Prior to Thursday's game against Northwestern, Kevin McGuff emphasized the importance of staying focused on the next game on the schedule to his No. 2 Ohio State women's basketball team.

The Buckeyes host No. 10 Iowa on Monday and travel to No. 6 Indiana next Thursday, but before preparing for the back-to-back top-10 matchups, McGuff wanted to see his team turn in a complete effort against the Wildcats.

With an 84-54 win, Ohio State did just that. Now 19-0 and 8-0 in the Big Ten, alone at the top of the conference standings, it was unlikely that the last-place team in the league would pose a major threat, and the Buckeyes did what they were expected to do after an 81-48 win over Northwestern (6-12, 0-8) in the teams' first meeting.

"We just played Northwestern a couple weeks ago, and they've gotten better since then," McGuff said. "We watched them on film. I think we have too, but this could have been a real problem for us had we not shown up with the focus and energy needed to play the game the right way."

After taking an early lead, Ohio State led by just one point, 9-8, at the media timeout of the first quarter. Coming out of the timeout, the Buckeyes went on a 10-0 scoring run fueled by eight points from senior guard Taylor Mikesell, and the Wildcats didn't get within a single-digit margin the rest of the way.

The growing lead enabled McGuff to give several players more rest than they've had in recent games; Thursday was the first time since Dec. 28 — also against the Wildcats — that Mikesell played less than the full 40 minutes. In the just over 29 minutes she played, Mikesell scored 18 points, and her four 3-pointers were important for the Buckeyes as they sought to break down Northwestern's zone defense.

Among the bench players who saw significant minutes, guard Hevynne Bristow played a season-high 26:50 and scored seven points with eight rebounds, and Emma Shumate and Eboni Walker played 16:21 and 13:32, respectively.

Jan 19, 2023; Columbus, OH, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes guard Hevynne Bristow (3) makes a fast break layup in front of Northwestern Wildcats guard Sydney Wood (3) during the first half of the NCAA women's basketball game at Value City Arena. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch

"Some of the heavy minute players got a little more rest tonight," McGuff said. "Hopefully, that will pay dividends starting with Monday."

After limiting the usage of the full-court press against Nebraska on Sunday, McGuff re-instituted the press for large stretches of Thursday's game, only pulling back from it late in the second half as the Buckeyes turned to their bench. Ohio State forced Northwestern into 19 turnovers and three players — Mikesell, Bristow and Rikki Harris — each had three steals.

The Buckeyes have made a habit of second-half comebacks this season, dating to the season-opening win over then-No. 5 Tennessee, but they've now won each of their last two games by holding wire-to-wire leads. With a challenging stretch of games upcoming, games like Thursday's are important for both Ohio State's confidence and its focus as it prepares for its toughest week of the season to date.

"One game at a time," Bristow said. "We're not worried about Indiana. When are we playing them, Thursday? That's not what we're focused on. We're focused on Monday, and then it'll be Thursday, and then it'll be the next day after that."


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