It was all Aaron Craft everything Tuesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. The Buckeyes went into a hostile Big Ten environment for the second consecutive game and came out with another victory by the score of 76-69.
Ohio State leaned heavily on its senior leaders to take over against an Iowa team that defeated the Buckeyes in Columbus on Jan. 12.
Aaron Craft was sensational in the first half of play against the Hawkeyes. Craft followed up his aggressive play late against Wisconsin with 14 huge first half points for Ohio State that included two three-point field goals.
One of Craft's four steals in the first half led the Buckeyes to a 9-0 run that put OSU up 26-17 over halfway through the opening session.
Iowa hung tough, however, as they went on an 8-0 run of their own.
Craft made a rare mistake getting trapped near the mid court line late in the first half and his turnover led to an Aaron White bucket.
The Hawkeyes led Ohio State 33-31 at halftime, but it was time for Ohio State's other senior guard to go off on a run after the intermission.
Lenzelle Smith Jr., who was very vocal after the Buckeyes went on a losing skid, came out with eight big points to begin the half for Ohio State.
He tied the game with a step back jumper to open the second frame, and then he hit on a couple big three pointers to keep Ohio State barely ahead of a scrappy Iowa bunch.
Iowa's junior center Gabriel Olaseni was huge for Iowa with the Hawkeyes' two leading scorers struggling from the field. Olaseni did not miss from the floor, going 5-5 from the field and also connect on all four of his free throws for a much needed 14 points along with six rebounds.
The turning point in the game came with 8:50 to play and the Buckeyes clinging to a 50-47 lead.
Ohio State's junior center Amir Williams caught a pass going toward the hoop and was wrapped up by Olaseni before he could get the ball to the rim. The excessive contact to Williams' neck area forced the referees to call Olaseni for a flagrant foul.
Williams nailed both free throws and scored down low on the subsequent possession to put Ohio State up 54-47.
The Buckeyes did not look back from that moment.
Aaron Craft's drive past Iowa's Roy Devyn Marble for a bucket and a foul gave Ohio State a late 66-59 lead.
Craft's defense on Marble was stifling all game. Marble went just 4-11 from the field for 10 points.
Craft finished with an impressive 17 points, six assists, and six steals. Tuesday marked the 26th time that Craft had four or more steals in a single game.
The Buckeyes went on a stretch of making eight consecutive free throws in the final minute that helped salt away a valiant effort for a comeback from Iowa and its sophomore guard Mike Gesell who finished with 16 points.
The Buckeyes return home Saturday night to take on the Purdue Boilermakers on the Big Ten Network.
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