INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Kelsey Mitchell is justifying her standing as the Big Ten’s top player.
The league’s player of the year made six 3-pointers and finished with 27 points to lead No. 9 Ohio State over Northwestern 99-68 Friday in the quarterfinal of the Big Ten Tournament.
Mitchell opened the game with a 3-pointer, and the Buckeyes never trailed.
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”It was going right for our team,” Mitchell said. ”I think we jumped out on it aggressive on the defensive end. And throughout the course of the game, I think our defense stayed hammer-down, not frustrated.”
Kiara Lewis, Shayla Cooper and Alexa Hart each scored 11 points for the top-seeded Buckeyes (26-5), who have won a season-high 12 straight games.
Nia Coffey had 21 points and Ashley Deary finished with 13 points for the Wildcats (20-11), who shot 36 percent and committed 21 turnovers.
Ohio State went on a 10-0 run in the first quarter, and Lewis made a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 51-24 halftime lead.
The Buckeyes made nine 3-pointers in the first two quarters and scored 17 points off Northwestern’s 16 turnovers in the half.
”We got off to a rough start,” Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said. ”We struggled a little bit and Ohio State hit nine 3s, and we just couldn’t recover from that. They just made a lot of shots, took us out of what we did. And really that was the story of today’s game.”
Ohio State opened the second half with a 9-0 run as Mitchell led the way. She followed a three-point play with back-to-back 3s for a 60-24 lead with 9:03 remaining in the third quarter.
The Buckeyes increased their lead when Linnae Harper scored with 59 seconds left in the third to make it 82-43.
”I think in the last month we’ve gotten better,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. ”I think that was evident today. You can’t do that if you don’t have the right players and if you don’t have depth.”
The Big Ten Tournament is where Mitchell has played some of her best basketball. She averaged 30.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists over five games between the 2015 and 2016 tournaments. She shot 47.6 percent from the field and 44.0 percent from 3-point range in the tournament both years.
Northwestern: The Wildcats will have some big positions to fill next season. Deary, the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year, and Coffey, No. 2 on Northwestern’s career scoring list and No. 1 on its rebounding list, is in her final season.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes will make a fourth straight trip to the semifinal round, where they were eliminated last season by Michigan State. A win would put OSU in the championship, earning a chance for its first Big Ten Tournament title since 2011.
Northwestern: The Wildcats await postseason tournament bids.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes play Purdue or Indiana in the Saturday’s semifinals.