Ohio State women's basketball team finally hits the road, thumps Illinois

From staff reports
The Ohio State University athletic department logo, 2017. [provided by OSU]

More than six weeks after the Ohio State women’s basketball team’s season was originally scheduled to begin, the Buckeyes on Thursday finally played a game away from Value City Arena.  

The change in scenery did nothing to change the team’s good fortunes to start the coronavirus-disrupted 2020-21 season. 

Aaliyah Patty recorded a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, Jacy Sheldon added a game-high 20 points and fast-starting Ohio State remained unbeaten by rolling Illinois 78-55 in the State Farm Center. 

Once again playing without starting center Dorka Juhasz and bench regulars Rebeka Mikulasikova and Rikki Harris, the Buckeyes (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) raced to an 18-8 lead after the first quarter as Sheldon scored 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting from three-point range and Patty added seven points. 

“They’re two big key players on our team so I gotta step up and help out,” Patty said of missing Juhasz, an all-Big Ten performer, and Mikulasikova. 

Ohio State hasn’t said which players tested positive for COVID-19, but an increase in cases on the team prompted the program to shut down in late December before returning to play on Monday with a win against Penn State. 

Against Illinois, OSU increased its advantage to 38-23 at halftime as Patty scored six second-quarter points, but the Illini (2-5, 0-4) made a run in the opening minutes of the third quarter, closing to 38-30 on a basket by Eva Rubin. 

The Buckeyes responded immediately, however, using a 22-2 run over the next six minutes to push their lead back to 60-32. 

Senior guard Braxtin Miller had six points and two steals to spark the run, and reserves Gabby Hutcherson and Kateri Poole also provided key baskets during the stretch. 

“Gabby I thought was terrific,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “She and Kateri both I thought made the most of their minutes.” 

Hutcherson finished with 12 points and Poole seven. 

“Usually I was being a little more conservative with my driving (and) shooting, but especially with Dorka being out I felt like I really had to step it up and be more aggressive,” said Hutcherson, a freshman from Westerville South. 

The Buckeyes’ next scheduled game, Sunday against Rutgers, was postponed because of a virus cases in the Scarlet Knights’ program. Ohio State is next scheduled to play Jan. 13 at Iowa.