PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — With Rutgers making a run at No. 4 Ohio State, Rebeka Mikulasikova and Taylor Mikesell wouldn’t let the Buckeyes lose.
Mikulasikova scored a career-high 31 points and Taylor Mikesell added 30 to help the Buckeyes beat Rutgers 82-70 on Sunday, a day that the Scarlet Knights honored former coach C. Vivian Stringer.
“We were playing off each other and taking advantage of scoring opportunities when they came to us,” Mikesell said. “We made some really big plays down the stretch.”
Mikesell was excited that Ohio State was able to be there when Rutgers dedicated its court to Stringer, who retired after last season at the age of 74.
“She’s a legend in women’s basketball, especially here,” Mikesell said. “Being able to be here and honor her was pretty cool.”
There have been only a handful of schools to name their courts after women’s basketball coaches, including Tennessee for Pat Summitt, North Carolina State for Kay Yow, Arkansas-Little Rock for Joe Foley and DePaul for Doug Bruno.
Stringer was in attendance and at halftime her family and many former players gathered on the court to celebrate the dedication of it. Rutgers officials gave Stringer a piece of the floor that her teams played on as a gift.
“The first thing for us was to come out and to give a great performance for Coach Stringer,” Rutgers coach Coquese Washington said. “This may be the last time she watches a game in Jersey Mike’s Arena and we wanted our performance to be reflective of what she poured into this university and program in her time here.”
Buoyed by the return of their Hall of Fame coach, Rutgers played its best game of the season against a ranked opponent. Ohio State (8-0) jumped out to a 20-6 lead after one quarter, but the Scarlet Knights (4-6) wouldn’t go away.
They were down 18 near the end of the half before Kaylene Smikle hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to get within 43-28. Rutgers continued that momentum in the second half and made it 53-45 with 3:25 left in the third quarter.
Mikulasikova and Mikesell then scored the next six points for Ohio State to restore the double-digit advantage, and Rutgers couldn’t recover.
“No Big Ten game is going to be easy,” Mikesell said. “Having the win is important and there’s a lot of things we need to clean up. Coming on the road, you can’t walk into a arena and play the way we did and win most nights.”
Smikle led Rutgers with 21 points.
Ohio State was missing guard Jacy Sheldon (foot injury). She is averaging 16 points a game.
Rutgers has struggled this season against ranked opponents, going 0-3. The Scarlet Knights also lost to Tennessee and Texas by an average of 39 points. … The No. 4 ranking is the highest for Ohio State since January 2010, when the team was fourth for one week.
Throughout the game, Rutgers played video tributes to Stringer, including from South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer and former player Essence Carson.
Ohio State hosts New Hampshire on Thursday.
Rutgers visits Illinois on Wednesday.