PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- For a change, high-scoring No. 7 Ohio State used its defense to win a game.
Kelsey Mitchell scored 22 points and lethargic Ohio State woke up and limited Rutgers to seven points in taking command in the third quarter in a 67-58 victory on Sunday.
"I thought we really turned up the defense and that was the key to the game there in the third quarter," Buckeyes coach Kevin McGuff said. "One of the things we didn't do in the first half is we didn't turn them over and give ourselves chances to take those turnovers and turn them into points. We had a little run there, where we really got after them defensively and we were able to get out in transition."
Ohio State held Rutgers to 2-of-9 shooting in the third quarter and forced seven turnovers in turning a 30-all halftime tie into a 54-37 lead.
"We moved the ball a lot better, moved the ball inside and played defense a lot better," said Mitchell, who was 8 of 15 from the field in hitting the 20-point mark for the 17th time this season.
The Buckeyes also got a big effort from Ameryst Alston in the quarter. She scored 10 of her 15 points as the Buckeyes (15-4, 7-1 Big Ten) won their third straight and for the 11th time in 12 games.
Alston, the Buckeyes' second leading scorer at 18.6, had just three points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half. The senior guard hit a pair of 3-pointers and two baskets in the opening six-plus minutes to help open a 45-32 lead.
"It's always important for us to get her involved in the game and make sure she gets us going," said Mitchell, who came into the game No. 2 in the nation in scoring at 25.4 points.
Alexa Hart added 15 points and eight rebounds for Ohio State,
Kahleah Copper had 18 points and 13 rebounds for Rutgers (12-8, 3-5), which lost its third in a row and had an eight-game winning streak at home snapped. The Scarlet Knights have not beaten a Top 10 team since knocking off Auburn in 2009.
In all three losses in the current streak, Rutgers either led or was tied at the half.
"It scares me to think about the third quarter and the fourth quarter," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "I don't know what to do about it. Maybe we'll just pretend it's the first quarter and second quarter and play it that way. That's the same that happened in five games that we lost. History repeats itself."
This was Stringer's second game back with the team after missing a game at Nebraska to be with her ill mother in Altanta.
The 67 points were the second fewest this season for Ohio State, which was No. 2 nationally in scoring at 87 points. No. 1 Connecticut held it to 56.
Ohio State had scored 80 or more points in its last 11 games, the longest streak of 80-point game in school history.
Rutgers got within 48-37 on a jumper Briyona Canty with less than two minutes to play but Ohio State scored the final six points to push the lead to 54-37 on a layup by Cait Craft in the closing seconds.
Ohio State was never threatened in the final 10 minutes.
McGuff said the Buckeyes may have started slowly because they spent all day Saturday in their hotel because of the blizzard that hit New Jersey.
"We had to come a day early and yesterday we could not leave the hotel," McGuff said. "We looked like a team that had been snowed in yesterday."
Hart hit 7 of 8 from the field and now has now has scored in double-figures in seven-straight games.
Ohio State: Alston has 1,910 career points and need just two more to move into No. 6 in school history
Rutgers: Stringer changed her starting lineup, resting center Rachel Hollivay and guard Briyona Canty. Hollivay had started all 19 and Canty 18. Victoria Harris and Khadaizha Sanders got the starts in their place.
Ohio State: hosts Northwestern on Thursday.
Rutgers: at Indiana on Wednesday.
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