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Ohio State put itself in the driver's seat in the Big Ten Conference race and announced itself as a national contender with its second win of the season over Maryland on Monday.

On Thursday, the sixth-ranked Buckeyes continued to speed by Big Ten opponents.

Kelsey Mitchell and Shayla Cooper each scored 20 points to lead five Buckeyes in double figures as Ohio State (20-4, 12-1) ran its winning streak to eight straight with a 98-81 win over Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Ameryst Alston added 18 points and Alexa Hart had 13 for Ohio State, which remained alone atop the Big Ten standings.

“They played a great game,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “It’s obvious they are a very, very good basketball team with a lot of scorers out there and a lot of weapons.

The high-scoring Buckeyes shot 58 percent from the field while winning for the 16th time in their last 17 games.

Ohio State, which entered the game fourth nationally at 85.7 points per game, surpassed the 90-point mark for the fourth time during the eight-game winning streak.

The 98 points was a Big Ten season-high for Ohio State and the most Iowa had allowed since surrendering 98 in a win at Drake last season.

“They are a difficult team to defend when they have that many threats, but we definitely shouldn’t have given up that many points to them,” Iowa junior Ally Disterhoft said. “There is no excuse for that.”

Iowa  (15-10, 5-8) got 20 points from Disterhoft, and freshman Megan Gustafson had her fourth double-double in the last five games, but it wasn’t nearly enough to keep up with the Buckeyes.

Iowa has allowed opponents to score 83.7 points per game during its current three-game losing skid.

“I think defensively you have to look at that,” Bluder said of the common theme in the three-game losing streak. “Our rebounding was good. It’s been good the last couple of games. It’s just being able to stop people and get defensive stops. Obviously, defensive stops were few and far between when we let a team shoot 58 percent.”

Ohio State took control of the game with a 10-0 run to close the opening quarter.

Mitchell and Cooper started the 10-0 spurt that spanned the final 2:48 of the first quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers as Ohio State took a 28-15 lead.

The Buckeyes shot 53 percent in the opening quarter, hitting 6-of-10 3-pointers, and they were just getting started.

Ohio State shot 67 percent in the second quarter while building a 53-39 halftime lead and put the game away with a 30-point third quarter in which they shot 72 percent from the floor.

“I thought the 10-0 run at the end of the first quarter was just a really tough one for us,” Bluder said. “I thought we played a good second quarter against them, but their press in the third quarter — we had too many turnovers in the third quarter against the press that resulted in high-percentage scores for them.”

Iowa had five players in double figures Thursday as Alexa Kastanek (15), Whitney Jennings (14) and Chase Coley (12) joined Gustafson and Disterhoft.
The Hawkeyes, though, shot just 45 percent from the field and had 15 turnovers.

“I don’t mind playing fast if we’re taking the shots we work on every day: open 3s, making lay-ups,” Bluder said. “But you know, we just got so fast that we started losing our mental focus and taking some shots that we don’t really work on.”

Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or rmurken@press-citizen.com and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken. 

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