In the first few minutes it looked as if this was going to be one of those hard-nosed defensive Big Ten affairs, but both teams quickly found their rhythm. Both teams had turned the ball over three teams each, as Ohio State took a 7-4 lead into the under-16 media timeout. Iowa responded by hitting five straight shots to jump out to an early 12-7 lead, but Ohio State recovered as Marc Loving scored 11 of the Buckeyes first 13 points.
While it wasn't surprising to see Ohio State have turnover issues in the first half, it raised some eyebrows to see Iowa struggle in that area. The Hawkeyes came into the game averaging just 10 turnovers per game, which was 12th fewest in the country. In the first 20 minutes Iowa nearly hit that mark, turning the ball over nine times. Ohio State better than mark by turning the basketball over 11 times, with every starter aside from Trevor Thompson turning the ball over at least twice.
Ohio State was able to get Iowa into a bit of foul trouble late in the first half, which helped the Buckeyes take the lead into halftime. With just over three minutes to go, Mike Gesell committed his second foul of the half, which allowed Keita Bates-Diop to complete a three-point play. Even with having to sit the last few minutes of the half, Gesell went into the halftime break as Iowa's leading scorer, registering 10 points.
Just after that Peter Jok picked up his second foul as he contested a layup attempt by A.J. Harris. The freshman guard hit both of his free throws, and then a tough basket by Bates-Diop capped off a 7-0 Ohio State run, which gave them a 33-28 lead. The Buckeyes took a 35-30 lead into halftime after Marc Loving hit two free throws after being fouled by Iowa's Nicholas Baer with a tenth of a second left in the first half. Loving was Ohio State' high-scorer in the first half with 13 points, while Bates-Diop added 11 points.
Iowa was able to turn things around after the halftime break, hitting an early three-pointer to give them a little confidence from outside. It looked like in the middle of the second half that the Hawkeyes were about to run away with the game, especially after getting into the bonus with just under 10 minutes to go.
To Ohio State's credit, the young Buckeyes didn't give up and kept the pressure on the Hawkeyes. With Thompson, Mickey Mitchell, and Daniel Giddens all on the bench with foul trouble, Kam Williams stepped up and gave the Buckeyes a strong effort off the bench. Following a Marc Loving three-pointer to pull the Buckeyes with 62-61, Williams then hit what looked like a three-pointer, but was ruled a two-pointer by the officials, to give Ohio State a 63-62 lead with 2:04 left in the game.
Williams left little doubt on his next attempt, hitting a three-pointer to push Ohio State's lead to 66-62 with 1:03 left. Iowa responded with a layup from Adam Woodbury, and had a chance to tie after JaQuan Lyle missed a three-pointer with seven seconds to go. The Hawkeyes had a chance to tie things up, but a huge block from Keita Bates-Diop on Mike Gesell's layup attempt secured the win for the Buckeyes.
A big defensive stand from Ohio St has the Buckeyes on the verge of victory. https://t.co/wqZVtgG5uS— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) February 28, 2016
Gesell and Jared Uthoff each had 16 points for Iowa, while Peter Jok added 12 points as the Hawkeyes slumped to their fourth loss in the last five games. Marc Loving had one of his best games of the season for Ohio State, pacing the Buckeyes with 25 points, while Keita Bates-Diop not only added 19 points, but also blocked four shots. Kam Williams came through in the clutch for Ohio State, finishing with 11 points off the bench. Ohio State made up for their 20 turnovers on the offensive end by blocking six of Iowa's shots.
Three things we learned:
1. Ohio State caught Iowa at just the right time. Had this game been a month ago, it might have been hard to imagine Ohio State even having a chance to earn a win against the Hawkeyes, but since then Iowa has really struggled. Fran McCaffery's team had lost three of their last four coming in, and things won't get any easier for the Hawkeyes when they host Indiana on Tuesday before closing out the regular season in Ann Arbor against Michigan on Saturday. Not only did Iowa struggle with turnovers in this contest, but they also had problems connecting from long range, missing all seven of the three-pointers they attempted in the first half.
It also helped that Ohio State didn't have much to lose in this contest. Even though it is the regular season home finale for the Buckeyes, they didn't have to worry about dealing with any of the senior day festivities for their key contributors. Also, unless they win the Big Ten Tournament, Ohio State isn't making the NCAA Tournament this year. The Buckeyes could improve their seeding for the Big Ten Tournament, but not enough to earn one of the coveted double-byes.
2. Loving and Bates-Diop could spell trouble for opposition in Big Ten Tournament. There hasn't been too many times this year when both Marc Loving and Keita Bates-Diop have both been playing strong in the same game. Loving was able to find his rhythm early in the first half, hitting his first three shots, while Bates-Diop took over later in the first half. Ohio State needed all the production they could get from the duo, since the rest of their starters were largely absent.
If Ohio State is able to get the same type of production from Loving and Bates-Diop in the Big Ten Tournament, the Buckeyes could spring an upset over a higher-seeded team. The chances of the Buckeyes winning a game or two they shouldn't in Indianapolis would increase even more if JaQuan Lyle can play at the type of level that was seen from him when he registered a triple-double against Rutgers. Even if they don't exhibit strong play in the Big Ten Tournament, performances like today from Loving and Bates-Diop at least set the table for optimism for the Buckeyes heading into next year.
3. Heart makes up for lack of depth. Ohio State was already playing with a short bench with the season-ending injury to Jae'Sean Tate, and that bench got even shorter in the middle of the second half. Around the 10 minute mark, Trevor Thompson, Daniel Giddens, and Mickey Mitchell were all relegated to the bench with four fouls each. The tight whistles by the refs put Iowa into the bonus with 9:30 left in the second half. Luckily for the Buckeyes, Kam Williams stepped up when he was needed most.
The extended time on the bench hurt Mitchell the most, since he was putting together his best game as a Buckeye. While his freshman year got off to a late start, the forward from Texas has been the main beneficiary of playing time due to the injury to Tate. Mitchell's game is still pretty raw, but he is at least giving Ohio State energy in place of Tate. While the extra time on the floor is starting to show dividends with each game he plays, it should be interesting to see how it translates next year, when he bigger things will be expected from him.