Northwestern women’s basketball traveled to Columbus on Thursday evening to face the undefeated No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Wildcats (6-12, 0-8 B1G) entered the matchup against their third top 12 opponent in four games. The Buckeyes (19-0, 8-0 B1G) came ready to take on the ‘Cats again after a 33-point win in late December. The story remained the same in their second matchup, as turnovers and struggles from the field plagued Northwestern, which fell to Ohio State 84-54.
Paige Mott and Caroline Lau both scored career-highs. The sophomore forward led the team with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while the first-year guard followed with 13 points and a team-high five rebounds. No other Wildcats scored in double digits.
For Ohio State, Taylor Mikesell and Rebeka Mikulášiková each scored 18 points to lead the scoring attack. Cotie McMahon and Taylor Thierry also reached double digits, scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Buckeyes started off hot in the first, connecting on three triples along with a stifling defense and full-court press. The Wildcats kept it close behind buckets from strong work in the paint by Mott and Caileigh Walsh. Northwestern called a timeout down 9-8 midway through the quarter. But after walking back on the court, things turned sour for the ‘Cats. Ohio State went on a quick 10-0 run, and it took nearly four minutes for Mott to hit a free throw to break the drought. It helped the Buckeyes take a 19-9 lead going into the end of the first quarter.
The Buckeyes found early success in the turnover battle. Just a minute into the second quarter, Ohio State had 16 points off six NU turnovers. A minute later, as the ‘Cats hit double figures as a team, Mikesell hit that mark her own. She then assisted her teammate Mikulášiková on a beautiful high-low to hit double figures.
The ‘Cats struggled to score from the field and had no field goals for more than ten minutes. The charity stripe became the main source of offense for the ‘Cats before Sydney Wood finally connected with an and-one layup with just over four minutes to play in the half.
Mikesell continued the Buckeyes’ success from behind the arc, hitting her fourth from three-point land. The Wildcats garnered some momentum plays toward the end of the half, with two high-lows to Mott, a charge taken by Wood and a shot fake and finish at the rim by Lau. Mott would go into the half with 12 points, just one short of her career-high in a game.
The ‘Cats finished the half at 8-of-24 from the field, 8-of-13 from the free throw line and 0-of-2 from three-point land. Each team had 20 rebounds, but Northwestern had 10 turnovers to the Buckeyes’ five. The Wildcats headed to the locker room down 38-24.
After the break, the Wildcats didn’t score for the first nearly two minutes. A big block from Mikulášiková matched the tone of the game, but Sydney Wood drew the foul on the inbound pass and added two free throws. The ‘Cats struggled with the Ohio State press, which got two steals and drew fouls on the subsequent fast break layups. But when NU broke through, it got layups down low for Jillian Brown and Mott. With that layup, Mott’s scoring total on the day reached 14 points, setting a new career high.
Lau provided sparks near the end of the third quarter for the ‘Cats as she connected on three layups, tying her career-high of eight points. Ohio State continued to have its way on offense, extending the lead to 65-39 by the end of the third.
Mott and Lau continued their record nights in the fourth with a layup and three, respectively. Lau’s shot was the first three-pointer for Northwestern — the ‘Cats would go on to finish 2-of-13 from behind the arc.
The Buckeyes scored 15 unanswered points, shooting nearly 60% from the field. Northwestern scored just one point during five minutes in the middle of the quarter, but outplayed Ohio State at the end of the game. The ‘Cats went 8-0 to close out the night behind five late points from Alana Goodchild. Still, it was too little too late, and the Buckeyes came away with the 84-54 victory.
The ‘Cats will take on the No. 21 ranked Fighting Illini in Evanston on Sunday. Coverage will begin at 2 p.m. CST on BTN+ and WNUR Sports 89.3 FM.