IOWA CITY, Ia. – No. 17 Iowa couldn’t shoot, couldn’t defend and couldn’t beat crafty Ohio State on Tuesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes made just 3-of-20 3-point attempts, allowed 45 second-half points and lost 76-69 to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State was ranked third nationally when Iowa won in Columbus on Jan. 12, 84-74. The Buckeyes fell out of the Associated Press poll for the first time in four seasons on Monday. They took it out on an Iowa team that hadn’t lost to an unranked team all season.
An overtime defeat at home against Penn State a week ago today was Ohio State’s fifth loss in six games. Coach Thad Matta’s team showed some resiliency by winning 59-58 at Wisconsin on Saturday and made it two road wins in a row over ranked teams on Tuesday.
“Six days ago we had a crazy loss, a devastating loss, to a really good Penn State team,” Matta said. “For these guys to regroup and keep their composure, knowing what was ahead of us … a lot of people didn’t give us much of a chance in either game.”
Senior guard Aaron Craft led the Buckeyes with 17 points, six assists and six steals. He also got the defensive assignment on Iowa’s leading scorer, Devyn Marble, and limited him to 10 points. Craft did all of this even though the Hawks Nest student section taunted him every time he touched the ball.
“That ignites him,” Matta said of Craft. “If they would ever spend 30 seconds with the kid they’d feel bad they did that, because he’s the greatest human being I’ve ever met.”
Iowa, which dropped its second straight home game, fell to 6-4 in the Big Ten and 17-6 overall. The Hawkeyes, who haven’t lost back-to-back games all season, host No. 10 Michigan on Saturday. Iowa’s conference title hopes took a hit, as the Hawkeyes now trail Michigan and Michigan State by three games in the loss column.
“When we executed well on offense, our shots weren’t falling,” said Aaron White, an Ohio native who was limited to eight points. “Then when we started to make a run and get some scores, we couldn’t get stops. It never came together. We were never in sync.”
The Hawkeyes never led by more than two points or got hot from the perimeter, missing their first nine 3-point shots.
“Maybe we could have shot-faked and drove a couple of them,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “But we had good shooters shooting open 3s. I wasn’t upset with any of them.”
Ohio State’s largest lead of the game, 26-17, came with 5:32 remaining in the first half. But Iowa finished the half on a 16-5 run and took a 33-31 lead after Marble and Mike Gesell double-teamed Craft into a turnover that resulted in a White dunk with 15 seconds left.
But Ohio State’s Lenzelle Smith, who was shut out in the first half, made a fall-away jumper in the lane and swished a 3-pointer on the Buckeyes’ first two possessions of the closing half. Iowa never led again.
“Lenzelle’s start to the second half was probably the difference in the game in terms of getting the momentum back on our side,” Matta said.
With Iowa’s outside shot missing in action, the defense also was exposed in the final 20 minutes.
“I think if you want to look at where we lost the game, we lost the game with defense the second half,” McCaffery said. “I don’t think there’s any question.”
Ohio State got good shot after good shot, against both man-to-man and a zone that was leaky more times than not.
“Even when they didn’t score, they were shooting wide-open 3s,” McCaffery said.
Ohio State shot 54.2 percent in the second half, and 51 percent for the game. The Buckeyes went 7-of-16 from long range, outscoring Iowa by a 21-9 margin there. Ohio State outscored Iowa 19-12 from the free-throw line. That collective 19-point swing more than made up for the Hawkeyes’ 38-25 rebounding edge.
Iowa had five players score in double figures in Columbus. On Tuesday, the Buckeyes returned the favor. LaQuinton Ross added 13 points, Smith and Amir Williams 12 each and Shannon Scott 11.
Gesell scored 16 points to lead Iowa, and Gabe Olaseni added 14. He was 5-for-5 from the field and didn’t miss in four free-throw attempts. The same couldn’t be said for Iowa’s 3-point shooting.
“When something isn’t working, it’s going to put pressure on something else,” Marble said.