Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa basketball defense well-oiled vs. Kaleb Wesson, Ohio State

Iowa makes it 3 straight wins with 72-62 victory over Buckeyes

Ohio State forward Kaleb Wesson (34) tries to pass the ball under pressure from Iowa forward Tyler Cook (25) during the first half of the Hawkeyes' 72-62 men's basketball win Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Ohio State forward Kaleb Wesson (34) tries to pass the ball under pressure from Iowa forward Tyler Cook (25) during the first half of the Hawkeyes' 72-62 men's basketball win Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Here’s the attitude of the Iowa men’s basketball team right now:

Tyler Cook? “He’s a little sore,” said Hawkeyes Coach Fran McCaffery. “We’ll see how he does the next couple days.”

“He’s good,” said teammate Jordan Bohannon. “He’s always good. We always make fun of him that he was made in a lab. He doesn’t get hurt. He’ll be fine. He’ll say the same thing.”

With a little over four minutes left in No. 25 Iowa’s 72-62 win over No. 17 Ohio State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Cook apparently sprained his left ankle on a drive to the basket against the Buckeyes’ Kaleb Wesson. He was in noticeable pain, and was helped to the dressing room.

But Cook did hobble under his own power to the team’s locker room with his teammates after the win. So, given how many Hawkeye players have gotten hurt on such a regular basis this season and returned without long absences, who’s to say the bionic junior forward won’t be good to go Wednesday at Penn State?

Iowa’s defense was pretty bionic in this game. The Hawkeyes took the mighty 6-foot-9, 270-pound sophomore Wesson and his 17.1 points per game out of this one early and kept him out of it.

Wesson picked up two fouls in the first 3:35. That matched the number of points he scored over the whole game.

“If you let Kaleb Wesson catch it deep,” McCaffery said, “he’s going to get 25. I wasn’t expecting he’d get 2, but I didn’t want him to get 20.”

This was defense on a day defense was absolutely necessary for Iowa, which won its third game in seven days to improve to 3-3 in the Big Ten and 14-3 overall. The Hawkeyes trailed 26-24 at halftime. Their offense was off, with 35.7 percent shooting and nine turnovers. But they were in a game, not getting strained necks from looking up from a large hole.

“Even in the first half when we couldn’t get our lead, our defense was really good, held them to only 26,” said Iowa’s Luka Garza, one of the Hawkeyes who stymied Wesson near the basket.

“We came out in the second half and continued our defense, but stepped up our offense better. All our bigs did a really good job of getting open and our guards were finding us.”

It was power basketball. Garza had 16 points, all but two after halftime. Cook had 15, Ryan Kriener added 11 off the bench. The bigs.

Jordan Bohannon, who reached the 1,000-point career mark late in the game with a pair of free throws, was 1-of-7 from the field but still had a strong game with eight assists and two steals.

“I thought I did a pretty good job in transition,” Bohannon said, “finding open guys when we needed baskets. Our game plan was to push inside to try to get people in foul-trouble.”

“That’s just the brand of basketball we play,” said Garza. “We’re really strong on the inside, and that opens up our outside.”

With Wesson neutralized, Ohio State didn’t have much else. The Buckeyes were held to 37.3 percent from the field and committed 21 turnovers. Their guard-play was substandard compared to that of Iowa’s Bohannon, Isaiah Moss, Joe Wieskamp and Connor McCaffery.

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The 14,528 fans here loved it. Their team figured things out in the second half. Their team figured things out in the last week.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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