Facing an important week that included a rematch with a top-10 conference competitor, the Ohio State Buckeyes reeled off three wins, two on the road, to secure hold of the Big Ten Conference lead with only four games remaining in the regular season.
Ohio State, 21-4 and 13-1 in Big Ten play, solidified its case that a changing of the guard could take place in Big Ten women's basketball race this season when they defeated No. 5 Maryland 94-86 on Feb. 8. It was the Buckeyes’ second win over the defending Big Ten champions this season and it put a one game gap in between the teams in the standings. As they have done throughout the season, Ohio State guards Kelsey Mitchell and Ameryst Alston led the way with 33 and 22 points, respectively as the Buckeyes never trailed in the game.
Alston, who was named the Big Ten Player of the Week, continued to roll with 18 points and six assists as Ohio State then went on the road for a 98-81 victory at Iowa on Feb. 11. It was Ohio State’s first win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in over eight years and laid to rest the knock on the Buckeyes that at times they can let inferior opponents hang around on the road. Mitchell and Shayla Cooper each scored 20 to lead the way.
Ohio State extended its win streak to nine games on Sunday, defeating Penn State 77-63 on the road as Alston connected on eight 3-pointers and finished with 26 points. The nine-game win streak is the team’s longest since 2012. Mitchell added 17 points and Alexa Hart chipped in 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Buckeyes.
One of the nation’s top-scoring duos, Mitchell and Alston currently combine to average 43.4 points per game, with Mitchell averaging 24.6 points per game, while Alston contributes 18.8. Mitchell, the No. 4 scorer in the nation, is second in the Big Ten in scoring this season behind Rachel Banham of Minnesota, who averages 26.1 points per contest. As a team, the high-scoring Buckeyes average 85.8 points per game which is third nationally behind UConn (88.8) and Sacramento State (87.2).
The Buckeyes, who moved up to fifth in the latest Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Sport Committee ranking on Monday, will next host Nebraska on Feb. 18.
Honorable mention teams of the week: BYU, Colorado State, Duquesne, James Madison and Louisville.