Evan Ravenel was one of a number of pleasant surprises in an Ohio State win over Iowa. - Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Behind 16 points from Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State rediscovered themselves just in time to close out an at times dominant, at times maddening home victory over Iowa.
In a game that saw Ohio State seemingly headed for a blowout victory, the Buckeyes saw a 20 point lead reduced down to four. But after some tenacious press defense from Iowa and the Buckeyes regaining their offensive continuity at the most inopportune time for their opponent, the Buckeyes hit their free throws down to the stretch (while Iowa mostly failed to do the same) to manage to emerge victorious, 72-63.
Deshaun Thomas led the way for the Buckeyes with 16 points, and Lenzelle Smith Jr, on the heels of one of his best halves of basketball of the season in the first half, contributed 12 in the win. Thomas suffered an inadvertent elbow to the head from teammate Shannon Scott and missed several minutes, and had he not returned, the Buckeyes could've been in real trouble. Ohio product Aaron Whtie led the way for Iowa, with 11 points, after withstanding chants of "Ohio State didn't want you," from a surprisingly lively Nuthouse student section.
Iowa looked as though they were going to get blown out of the gym in the early goings, but played their way back into what ultimately proved to be a closer than the experts predicted final score. Come Big Ten tournament time, there shouldn't be any doubts that Iowa will be an extremely tough out, as proved both last Saturday against Wisconsin and in tonight's resilient near come back against the Buckeyes.
As hasn't been uncommon during the 2012-2013 season for the Ohio State men's basketball team, both the Buckeyes and their opponent Iowa got off to a bit of a sloppy, disjointed start. After settling down, the Buckeyes had managed to have make four of their first five shots, but were really getting out muscled on the defensive glass. At one juncture, in fact, the Hawkeyes pulled down three offensive rebounds on a single possession.
By the under sixteen timeout, Ohio State led just 8-5. The tempo and pace to the game was unquestionably a net positive for the out athleticism-ed Hawkeyes. But in addition to helping slow down the pace on the defensive end, Iowa had pulled down six rebounds, five of those on the defensive glass. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, had managed just two boards. Thad Matta didn't waste any time with a listless lineup and pulled Amir Williams (who once again exhibiting concerning lethargy on both ends) in favor of Evan Ravenel.
With the new parts came new life for the Buckeyes. Ohio State soon led 15-13, and not too long before, Buckeyes star junior Aaron Craft grabbed possession of a ball from an opposing player in the Iowa paint to claim his Ohio State career record 205th career steal. While it's daunting to think about what that figure would look like had Mike Conley Jr. used more of his eligibility, considering that Craft has another season and a half to go, you have to think that number will only be even more ballooned.
While Eric May and Strongsville native Aaron White managed to continue keeping Iowa close, the Buckeyes would close the first half explosively. A lineup showcasing both LaQuinton Ross and Shannon Scott exhibited an end product more closely in line with the Buckeyes' true offensive potential. However, the Buckeyes defense continued to set the tone, as just prior to the half, Iowa had been held to 6-for-24 shooting from the field (to the Buckeyes' 10-20).
With an impressive Evan Ravenel and-one opportunity giving way to a missed free throw and a put back, Ohio State superficially inflated their lead to 34-22 just before intermission. LaQuinton Ross, perhaps once again making the case for more playing time in the future, put up 7 points and 5 boards despite playing just 9 minutes in the first half. Lenzelle Smith Jr had his best offensive *game* in ages, with 8 first half points.
At the half, the Buckeyes found themselves shooting 53.6 percent from the field, while holding the Hawkeyes to just 25. Thad Matta had mentioned before the game that he wanted to curtail turnovers and the Buckeyes came through, protecting the the ball to the tune of just 3 through the first. The Buckeyes' strong perimeter D and LaQuinton Ross playing to his potential were the differentiators in keeping Iowa off balance.
The second half saw a comprehensive clinic on both ends to start by the Bucks. An Aaron Craft explosive layup set the tone for the half, and from there, the offensive flood gates soon broke open. With Iowa limited to just three fast break points, the Buckeyes took control, breaking the lead open to 20+. Evan Ravenel continued adding to the total, while Deshaun Thomas contributed yet another three with Iowa scantly able to locate a consistent answer.
The strong shooting continued, as the Bucks actually *upped* their second half field goal shooting percentage to 54% with just over 10 minutes to play while Iowa continued to struggle, having made only 10-41 for the game. The Buckeyes had closed the first half on a 15-6 run and kept the pressure on with a 19-9 run to expand the lead to 20+.
To Iowa's credit, they didn't exhibit any quit, and a few scrappy plays helped them cut the lead back under 20. Zach McCabe in particular was responsible for 7 of a 9-0 run. One of the few moments of relative interest in the second third of the second half came when Deshaun Thomas was accidentally elbowed by teammate Shannon Scott and bloodied. While he needed attention in the locker room to help get the wound closed, the Big Ten's leading scorer wasn't particularly hampered and missed only a few minutes before returning to action.
The Hawkeyes continued to press and closed the lead back down to 11 with just over 6 minutes to play. The Bucks, while slightly improved over the early parts of the first half, continued to struggle on the defensive glass, and a lack of mental sharpness on the part of the Buckeyes keyed what ultimately expanded to a 20-4 run. The Buckeyes would eventually settle down but would have to grind out a tough final 3 minutes in which perhaps the one thing the Buckeyes did better than the Hawkeyes was hit their free throws. For all LaQuinton Ross did right in the first half, he was a venerable turnover machine in the second and a costly Aaron Craft offensive foul made things more tense than they otherwise needed to be.
What you take away from a game like this is tough to say. At their best, Ohio State resembled one of the best in the nation's best conference. But they were also as uneven as ever in stretches with plenty of reasons as a fan (or coach in the staff's case) to be frustrated. Despite an aggravating as ever start, Amir Williams closed with a career high 6 blocks, and looked far more in control in the second half. From more of a team vantage, you likely just take the win (the good and the bad) and move on to the next one.
The Buckeyes will get their next opportunity to kick the tires on their road body of work when they travel to Happy Valley to take on Penn State this coming Saturday at noon.
|MARBLE,ROY DEVYN *||8||2||3||3||1||2||2||11||3||6||1||4||30||-12|
|SMITH JR.,LENZELLE *||12||2||2||6||1||1||2||4||5||11||2||2||2||32||8|