The Ohio State men's basketball team returned to the Schott on Tuesday to start their next winning streak in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes were coming off a disappointing loss to Michigan State on Saturday, where they trailed late and were unable to take back the lead before the clock ran out. The frustration of this loss was take out on the Iowa Hawkeyes last night… for a while.
The scoring started with what looked like a statement from Ohio State when Amir Williams took a pass from Aaron Craft and slammed it through the hoop with authority. But that burst was short lived when Roy Marble sunk a 3-pointer for the Hawkeyes less than 30 seconds later. From that point on the game became a back-and-forth battle between the two teams.
The first half was defined mostly by missed shots, rebounds and turnovers for both teams. The teams moved the ball quickly up and down the court, but often tried to play faster than they were able to play comfortably. The result for the Hawkeyes was 24 missed 2-point shots, 7 missed 3-point shots and 6 turnovers. Similarly, the Buckeyes missed 13 of their 2-pointers and 3 3-pointers and 3 turnovers. This led to 23 rebounds by Iowa vs 15 by Ohio State and 8 lead changes.
The only real difference in the first half came in the last minute and a half. It started with a 3-pointer by Deshaun Thomas. Iowa quickly returned with a 2-pointer, then Sam Thompson put in a layup on the fly. Evan Ravenel then made a layup, is fouled in the process, missed the free throw, but Lenzelle Smith Jr. comes up with the rebound. He then scores to end the half with the Buckeyes up by 12, 34-22.
The second half was a brain cramp of sorts for the Buckeyes. It started well with the team working steadily and methodically to build a comfortable lead over the Hawkeyes. That lead capped at 24 points when Even Ravenel sunk the first of 2 free throws at the the 12:48 mark. The Buckeyes were ahead 53-29.
Then the magic was gone.
Whether it was because the Buckeyes relaxed a bit, lost focus or because the Hawkeyes stepped up their play (or all of the above), the comfortable lead that the Buckeyes had built up slowly started to disappear. Mis-timed passes flew out of bounds for turnovers. Ill-advised feeds inside went straight to Hawkeye players. Simple shots that had been falling earlier suddenly refused to go down, and often the rebound went to the Hawkeyes. Gradually, point-by-point, the Buckeye lead slowly dwindled until suddenly there was only a couple of minutes left and the lead was only 5 points.
The Buckeyes held on, though, through some great defense, some clutch free throw shooting by Aaron Craft, and a couple of quick counter-attacks that took advantage of a pressing Hawkeye defense. In the end the Buckeyes finished on top, 72-63.
The Buckeyes get the win, but they have some serious reflection to do. While it didn't help that Deshaun Thomas sat on the bench for a few minutes after receiving a cut above his eye from a stray elbow, the other players should have been able to carry on. Not everyone on this team is on the same page, and Aaron Craft's 6 turnovers were primarily the result of that. But since he's running point, it's his job to get that fixed and under control.
On Saturday the Buckeyes travel to State College to take on the Nittany Lions of Penn State. This should be a comfortable win for the Buckeyes, but it could easily turn into a disaster for them if they aren't careful. There's little doubt that Matta will have the team prepared. The question is, will the players be able to perform?
The game airs at noon on ESPN2.
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