Tuesday, January 3, 2017

No. 11 Ohio State 94, Northwestern 87: Local Chicago-area products provided a surprise boost in victory

                                                          Photo Credit: Geno Green

EVANSTON— On a night of records honored and broken by Northwestern Wildcat seniors Nia Coffey (1,000 career rebounds) and Ashley Deary (Big Ten all-time steals leader), a partisan Ohio State Buckeyes crowd showed up in full force.

While Kelsey Mitchell scored a game-high 33 points to follow up on 31 in the previous game at Indiana on Dec. 31, it would be local products Tori McCoy (Champaign) and Kiara Lewis (Chicago), who combined for a 10-0 run to end the second quarter to give No. 11 Ohio State its biggest lead of the game at 54-42.

The run helped power Ohio State (13-4, 3-0 Big Ten) over the Northwestern (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten) 94-87 at Welsh-Ryan Arena for its fourth straight win overall and seven out of the last eight victories in the series.

McCoy finished with 10 points, on 4-of-6 from the field and five rebounds, while Lewis added seven points.

A alumna of Whitney Young High School, Lewis opened up about having a little home cooking 18 miles away in Evanston.

"It was very exciting having all of my friends and family there. It was a great feeling to appreciate the fact that they came out to watch me perform," Lewis said.

Despite putting together a solid all-around effort in all phases with 10 points, 14 assists and six steals,  Deary did not use the first half Ohio State run as an excuse for its downfall.

"We chose not to dwell on the past and that was including rebounding and lack of scoring, we did not focus on any of that," Deary said.

Coffey (22 points) highlighted one of three Northwestern players with at least 20, but fouled out with 34 seconds left.

After both teams traded leads to begin the game, Sierra Calhoun highlighted a 10-2 run with two long range makes to take a 16-9 lead with 5:56 left in the first quarter, but back-to-back long range makes from Northwestern’s Lauren Douglas and Christen Inman wiped away most of the effort.

Ohio State responded with ease and its lead ballooned to as many as nine, before triples from Deary and Coffey pulled Northwestern to within three after 10 minutes at 31-28.

Mitchell’s presence would begin to be known in the second quarter with eight straight Buckeye points in a 3:14 stretch as she looked every bit the part of a 23.0 point per game player this season, despite leaving for a short time in the third quarter.

Facing its biggest deficit, forward Abi Scheid proivded firepower with nine of the first 11 points for Northwestern in the third quarter to cut its deficit to three at the 6:36 mark. Later in the quarter, Scheid also delivered on defense with a blocked shot on a driving Lewis, which helped set up a Coffey layup on the other end.

Scheid finished with 20 points, highlighted by four three-point makes and increased playing time (31 minutes) came as a result of center Allie Tuttle leaving the game in the first quarter and not returning as she sat on the bench.

“We went into the half down by 10 points and I was able to provide the spark needed to stay in the game,” Scheid said.

The Buckeyes maintained a 68-63 lead on the pesky Wildcats as the final quarter began. Despite a 9-2 run by Northwestern in the final minutes with Coffey and Christen Inman fouling out in the process, Ohio State managed to hold serve once more for the road win.

Looking Ahead:

Both teams return to action on Jan. 7, as Ohio State hosts Michigan at the Value City Arena in Columbus at 11 a.m. (BTN), while Northwestern travels to take on No. 3 Maryland at the Xfinity Center at 1 p.m.

Social Media:

Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.