Columbus, OH -- The 5th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes exhausted the Rutgers Scarlet Knights tonight in a 90-78 win. The second meeting as Big Ten conference members, the teams were slimly matched up.
Coming off of a seven-game winning streak, the Buckeyes blew confidently into the game, looking to continue this record-breaking run. What seemed as though it could be a tight competition, did not disappoint; each team started off with a quick three-pointer and didn't let each other get comfortable until the final buzzer.
The Buckeyes spent no time deliberating with the ball, but instead ran the court at a great pace. This tempo and the sloppy passing it produced from both teams, translated to 21 overall turnovers even before halftime.
When asked about these turnovers, Alexa Hart shared, "I will say that I didn't take care of the ball as well as I should have today. But they were being really aggressive in the passing lanes, too."
OSU had up to an 18-point advantage in the first quarter, but this lead was halved in the second by the Scarlet Knights' 14-point run that left them trailing, 43-34. Although they never overcame their difference, these rallies proved to make OSU work harder than they should have needed.
"I'm a little disappointed we lost some intensity that allowed Rutger's to make a run there. When we have a chance to shut down a team, and we don't, that's going to haunt us this year," Buckeyes' head coach Kevin McGuff said.
Kahleah Copper, who joined Rutgers Top 10 all-time scorers this past Monday, led the Scarlet Knights' scoring with 19 game points. Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell, the second-leading scorer in the nation, had an exceptionally hot game with 31 points.
Impressed by Mitchell's shooting, Rutger's head coach C. Vivian Stringer confirmed, "If you get close to Kelsey Mitchell, she's going to attack you. But there is such a thing as making her work for hers, and shutting down everyone else. But we let the flood in. There was no stopping in our defensive transition."
The third quarter served as the Buckeyes' runaway return, and the team cajoled themselves from their slow start with a punchy spurt of shot domination. Rutgers continued to struggle with the gargantuan Buckeye pace, but OSU's turnovers continued to be just as unrelenting as their speed, allowing Rutgers to find some redemption in those mistakes.
Every time Ohio State turned the heat up offensively under the basket, the Scarlet Knights staggered, but appeared to make it work for them.
Stringer summed up the loss, saying, "It was like in a boxing ring, getting knocked down, and you start staggering around all over the place and can't find your feet, but maybe you surprise them. What was most disappointing to me was, we took all of these shots, more than we usually do, and it still didn't turn out for us."
Rutgers should be credited for their determination to come back in the game, reflecting poorly on Ohio State's trouble shutting teams down when they have the chance. In the end, the 90-78 win, marked the most points scored against the Scarlet Knights in recent memory.
But just as McGuff warns his own team not to forget, "The conference is too good to allow people to get comfortable."