They actually sold out Value City Arena on Saturday night. The first time all season.
You have to wonder why it took so long.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are in first place alone in the Big Ten Conference after an 82-64 win over Iowa. This pretty much was a beatdown, a smacking, a blowout, a routine dissection.
Any and all apply.
No momentum from a good performance Tuesday night against Michigan State for the Hawkeyes (12-15, 3-11), who saw yet another opponent light them up offensively. It has become lather, rinse, repeat in that aspect.
Ohio State shot it at a mid to upper-50s clip until deep-reserve time, easing away from a 10-point game at the half with early second-half runs of 14-0 and 18-2. The Buckeyes scored too easily on the dribble-drive in that span, not to mention getting too many open 3-pointers.
“I think it was combination of a few things,” said Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery. “We scored in the first possession, and cut it to eight, and they went on a run after that. They got it back up to 18 pretty quick. As much as anything, it was bad offense on our part, with some good defense by them.”
Coming off a last-second win earlier this week at Purdue, you sort of wondered if the Buckeyes (22-5, 13-1) might be ripe for an emotional letdown here. Umm, no.
Michigan State’s win Saturday over Purdue means the Buckeyes are sole leaders of the Big Ten.
“We were aware that Iowa could really score the ball, and they did that in the first half,” said Ohio State Coach Chris Holtmann. “They have a lot of stuff you have to guard, and I did not think we were as good as we needed to be defensively in the first half. The guys responded. I thought we were good offensively for the whole game. We moved the ball, shared it, make the right pass at the right time. Had a few too many turnovers. I thought offensively we were really good, thought defensively we were much better in the second half than we were in the first half. Give our guys a lot of credit for responding from an emotional game the other night. Proud of them.”
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Keita Bates-Diop leads the Big Ten in scoring, but had “just” 14 points for Ohio State. Forward mate Kaleb Wesson was a bull on the interior for the Buckeyes, finishing with a team-high 18 points.
As McCaffery noted postgame, he shot 11 free throws in the game, one more than Iowa did.
“Wesson’s a handful,” McCaffery said on Iowa’s radio network. “He sets up shop in there ... He’s long, we got a little handsy with him.”
Jack Nunge was a bright light in a dark game for Iowa, ending with a career-high 18 points. The forward seemed to hit a wall midway through the season, as many freshmen do, but has powered through that wall.
“I was trying to go out there tonight and impose my will on the game,” Nunge said. “Try to be aggressive, just have an impact and really look for my shots. Just try to do anything to help the team.”
“It’s been coming,” McCaffery said. “He was aggressive, he was physical. What a lot of teams are trying to do with him is bring smaller guys and get up into his face. He was more physical, and he got down low, and he got strong ... Boy, he was terrific tonight. I’m really proud of him.”
Jordan Bohannon added 11 points for Iowa but had only three in the second half. He and Nunge were the Hawks’ lone double-figure scorers.
Tyler Cook picked up two early fouls in the first half, sat because of it and was never a factor, finishing with eight points. Iowa shot just 42 percent from the field.
“I think we all still believe in each other,” Nunge said. “We have those moments where we just kind of lose it a little bit, lose our focus. But we still have some games left where we know we can still get hot for the Big Ten tournament.”
Iowa plays Wednesday night at Michigan.