COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Taylor Mikesell and Rebeka Mikulasikova each scored 18 points and No. 2 Ohio State beat Northwestern 84-54 on Thursday night to push its program-best, season-opening winning streak to 19 games.
The Buckeyes (19-0, 8-0 Big Ten) led wire to wire and closed the first quarter on a 10-1 run, with eight of the points from Mikesell. Ohio State led by 38 points in the fourth quarter and didn’t allow Northwestern (6-12, 0-8) to come closer than nine points after the first two minutes of the second quarter.
“This could have been a real problem for us, had we not shown up with the focus and energy needed to play the game the right way,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “I credit our leadership, our upperclassmen, just making sure the team was ready.”
Ohio State held a 14-point halftime advantage and pulled away after scoring a game-best 27 points in the third quarter. Mikesell scored 15 of her points in the first half and had three steals.
“Third quarter, they just went on a couple runs and we didn’t do a very good job of getting back on defense or off a turnover, and our shot selection became a problem,” Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said.
Paige Mott scored a career-high 16 points for Northwestern. Caroline Lau added 13 points.
SPREADING THE MINUTES AROUND
McGuff and Ohio State turned to its bench without star guards Madison Greene and Jacy Sheldon due to injury and with a comfortable lead throughout the second half.
Hevynne Bristow contributed seven points alongside eight rebounds and three steals during a season-high 27 minutes. Emma Shumate played 16 minutes and added four points and as many boards, while Eboni Walker played 14 minutes and notched eight points with six rebounds which were both season bests.
“I was really trying to get Hevynne, Eboni and Emma some more minutes,” McGuff said. “We’re still trying to develop our depth, and I thought they all did some really good things. They all made some mistakes, but that’s why we’re putting them out there just to get more experience.”
Amid a shooting lull from midway through the first quarter to 7:17 left in the second, Ohio State went 5 of 18.
Ohio State’s 9-8 lead in the first quarter advanced to 21-12 with over eight minutes until halftime before ballooning in the third quarter. Bristow led the team with 16 minutes in the second half and recorded five points in that span.
“I think our effort was really high and at points our execution was really good,” Bristow said. “I just think when we get into droughts of scoring, and our defense, we stick together. We just really talk to each other, and coach McGuff is there to push us, so I think staying together and our effort was the key to the win.”
A TOUGH ROAD AHEAD
Ohio State’s next two games will come against Top 10 conference foes No. 10 Iowa at home Monday and on the road at No. 6 Indiana next Thursday.
Having beaten four ranked teams this season, starting with then-No. 5 Tennessee in the opener last November, the Buckeyes are taking each day as they come and remain one of three unbeaten teams across the NCAA.
“One game at a time and practice,” Bristow said. “We’re focused on Monday next and then it’ll be Thursday and then it’ll be the next day after that.”
Northwestern: The Wildcats have lost seven in a row. Four of those losses have come against ranked opponents, including two to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State: Ohio State forced 19 turnovers, its most in nine games, and scored 25 points from those giveaways.
Northwestern: Hosts No. 21 Illinois on Sunday.
Ohio State: Hosts No. 10 Iowa on Monday night.