EVANSTON - So close, yet so far.
Even after fighting back from multiple double digit deficits, the Northwestern Wildcats (13-3, 2-1 B1G) fell just short of the No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes (13-4, 3-0) 94-87 on Tuesday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Kelsey Mitchell led all scorers with 33 points, while Nia Coffey had yet another double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds but was also 6-of-24 from the field. Ashley Deary had a double-double as well, as she put up 10 points and 14 assists.
Abi Scheid had a career day even in defeat, setting career highs in both points and rebounds, with 20 and 9 respectively. Scheid was also a perfect 7-of-7 from the field and 4-of-4 from three.
“I think the mistake I made was not getting her more shots,” head coach Joe McKeown said. “But she’s a freshman who’s learning our system, really starting to get comfortable being on the floor with different players and I’m really proud of her tonight.”
The start of the game went poorly for Northwestern as Sierra Calhoun hit her first three shots from downtown and the Wildcats trailed 16-9 a few minutes in. A couple three pointers from Christen Inman and Lauren Douglas cut the Ohio State lead to 1, but sharpshooting from the Buckeyes helped them maintain the lead throughout the quarter.
“They do such a great job with their zone and they don’t make it easy to score around the basket,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said. “So I knew we’d have to make some shots from the perimeter.”
The two teams combined to go 12-19 from three in the first quarter, with Ohio State shooting almost 70 percent from the field overall. Northwestern used a late 6-0 run to cut into the Buckeye lead, and after the first only trailed 31-28.
“There’s a lot of talented offense players on the floor for both teams,” McKeown said. “I think that showed and I think players on both teams played really loose and I think that part showcased the talent on both teams.”
Ohio State started the second quarter by going away from what had worked in the first, and still scoring. The Buckeyes scored on three straight possessions inside, causing head coach Joe McKeown to call a timeout.
Out of the timeout Northwestern used the Coffey-Inman offense to stay in the game as each player scored 5 points to keep the Wildcats in the game. Inman would finish the game with 22 points. However, it would all fall apart in the last minute of the half as Ohio State used a full court press to go on a 10-0 run and take a 54-42 lead into halftime.
“Transition. I think we had some good looks, they didn’t go in and they came back at us,” McKeown said. “[Ohio State] had two and-1s and we didn’t do a very good job of stopping them from getting to the basket, but really when you watch them play, not a lot of people have. So I think that was the difference, them running out on us.”
Despite a terrible end to the half, Northwestern came out firing in the third quarter. Abi Scheid hit three straight three pointers on a 11-2 Northwestern run as the Wildcats cut the Buckeye lead to 3. It would be the quarter of Abi Scheid, as the freshman scored 13 of the team’s 21 points.
“Actually I had the easy job,” Scheid said. “I just had to stand there and get the kick out from my teammates. They would do the hard work and drive to the basket, they would attract my player and I’d be open.”
Northwestern would get as close as two in the quarter, but Kelsey Mitchell was enough to keep Ohio State ahead. Even though the Buckeyes only scored 14 points in the third, they led 68-63 heading into the fourth.
The fourth didn’t get off the start Northwestern was looking for when the Buckeyes got a quick 7-1 run to get the lead back to 9. A Douglas three and an Inman layup cut the Ohio State lead to 4.
But it just wasn’t enough for the Wildcats.
Kelsey Mitchell absolutely took over down the stretch, scoring 7 points in a little over a minute, as Ohio State went on an 8-0 run to try and ice the game. Northwestern would answer with a valiant 10-2 run and only trail 88-84 with 44 seconds left. The Wildcats would get as close as three, but solid free throw shooting from Ohio State would put the game away. Despite a close finish, the Buckeyes held on for the 94-87 victory.