Women’s Basketball: Ohio State outlasts Northwestern to move ahead in Big Ten

Sophomore forward Alex Cohen surveys the court against Illinois. The Wildcats could not overcome a seven-point first half deficit against Ohio State on Sunday.

Daily file photo by Meghan White

Sophomore forward Alex Cohen surveys the court against Illinois. The Wildcats could not overcome a seven-point first half deficit against Ohio State on Sunday.

Ariel Yong, Reporter

The Wildcats gave the packed home crowd quite a show on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough.

Northwestern (11-13, 3-8 Big Ten) fell to Ohio State (14-10, 4-7) in front of 2,507 fans in a tough battle that left the Cats on the short end of a 59-52 contest.

Welsh-Ryan Arena was packed Sunday, most notably with women, as the Cats celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Before the game, middle and high school girls had the opportunity to talk with NU student athletes and other women in the sports industry.

With the crowd decked out in pink and cheering loudly, the Cats tried to stage a late game comeback to erase a first half deficit. NU cut Ohio State’s lead down to 6 with just under three minutes left in the game on a fastbreak layup by senior forward Kendall Hackney. On the next inbounds, the Cats forced a Buckeyes’ turnover with their full court press and freshman forward Lauren Douglas scored a quick layup to bring the Cats within 4.

However, the Buckeyes pulled away with a layup and 2 free throws by Tayler Hill with 34 seconds left and wouldn’t look back, sealing their victory.

“Obviously Tayler Hill is a great player for Ohio State,” sophomore forward Alex Cohen said. “We were really looking to contain her, make sure she didn’t shoot the ball and penetrate. We just couldn’t pull that out tonight.”

The first half was an even match between the two teams. NU did a good job of attacking the lane early and stormed out to a 6-0 lead, scoring all of their points in the paint. The Cats took the ball strong to the hoop and drew fouls, but shot only 57.1 percent from the free throw line.

Douglas was a beast on the defensive side for the Cats, recording a whopping 4 blocks in just the first half and one more in the second. The Buckeyes had no answer and were scoreless for the first three minutes, going 0-5 from the field. NU did a good job of putting pressure on the Ohio State guards, trapping them high and out of the key. The Buckeyes went 0-4 from beyond the arc in the first half.

However, the Cats struggled on the inbounds pass and began to throw the ball away. NU went scoreless for a three-minute stretch in the first half, and the Buckeyes took advantage. Ohio State’s Ashley Adams scored 11 first half points, and the Buckeyes forced 10 NU turnovers, which turned into 8 fastbreak points.

The Buckeyes began attacking the NU defense after the slow start and found success down low. Ohio State outscored the Cats 20-12 in the paint and shot an impressive 89.5 percent from the foul line. NU trailed by 7 heading into halftime.

The Buckeyes quickly extended their lead to 10 to begin the second half. The Cats struggled to contain Hill, who had the hot hand for the Buckeyes in the second half. She scored 16 second-half points and finished with 26, surpassing her average of 20.9 points per game. Hill ranks 2nd in scoring in the Big Ten.

However, the Cats did not allow the Buckeyes a single 3-pointer. Ohio State went 0-6 on the game from beyond the arc.

“We work on closeouts every practice,” Cohen said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with in the past so that’s something we’ve really been working on as a team.”

NU continued to slowly chip away at Ohio State’s lead. The Cats held the Buckeyes scoreless for 4 minutes and came within 5 on a 3-pointer by Lyon with just over eight minutes left in the game. NU did execute its full court press, but it wasn’t enough to stop Ohio State’s momentum.