The No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes upset the No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers Wednesday night in West Lafayette, Ind. Now, the Buckeyes head back to Columbus to face an Iowa team that hasn’t won a game since January.
More heroics from forward Keita Bates-Diop sealed the win over Purdue for Ohio State earlier this week, as he tipped in a miss from Jae’Sean Tate to put the Buckeyes up by one in the final seconds of the game. The junior finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season as Ohio State improved to 21-5 on the season and 12-1 in conference play. Importantly, Ohio State managed the win without senior guard Kam Williams, who was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules prior to the Buckeyes’ win over Illinois. Williams is expected to be out once again tonight against Iowa.
Ohio State’s win Wednesday ended Purdue’s 19-game win streak. With the win, the Buckeyes hold the tiebreaker for the top spot in the Big Ten standings over both the Boilermakers and Michigan State Spartans. In the current AP Poll, Ohio State now holds two wins over top-5 teams and has an overall highly-competitive tournament resume. The Buckeyes have risen to 13th in the latest Kenpom ratings, third in the Big Ten behind the Spartans and Boilermakers.
Iowa is definitely down this year, with the Hawkeyes 11th in the Big Ten conference standings--the same spot Ohio State was expected to finish at in the preseason. The Hawkeyes have won just three conference games this season and hold a 12-14 overall record.
In general, Iowa has been a wildly inconsistent team this season. After getting blown out by Penn State by 24 on the road, Iowa returned home to lose to No. 4 Michigan State by just three. While capable of scoring a lot of points on offense, they haven’t proven able to defend quite so readily.
Fran McCaffery is in his eighth season with the Hawkeyes, and is having his worst year since taking over the program in 2010 when Iowa went 4-14 in conference play. McCaffery is 149-115 overall in his time in Iowa City, including 67-72 in conference.
The Hawkeyes dropped their last game against Ohio State early in January, 92-81, but Iowa holds the all-time edge 77-74. Overall, the Buckeyes are 814-714 against current members of the Big Ten.
Numbers to know
How many turnovers the Buckeyes had against Purdue Wednesday. That’s a huge improvement from the 15 Ohio State committed previously against Illinois (granted, Illinois is one of the best teams in the nation in taking the ball away). Turnovers have been a point of emphasis for Chris Holtmann in his first season in Columbus, especially when it comes to his point guards protecting the ball, but the Buckeyes were still averaging 12 per game heading into their matchup with the Boilermakers. It is a positive trend to see Ohio State able to protect the ball against tough competition like Purdue--a team that normally takes the ball away more than 13 times per game. Iowa, meanwhile, is averaging 13 turnovers per game while forcing 11.6.
The number of assists per game that Iowa has had this season, which is good for fourth in the NCAA. Point guard Jordan Bohannon leads in the category, averaging 5.3 per game. Bohannon has had six games with 10 or more assists in his career, and all of his double-doubles in his two years with the Hawkeyes have come off points and assists. Earlier this season, Iowa collectively accounted for 34 assists on just 36 field goals against Northern Illinois. Most recently against Michigan State, all five of Iowa’s starters had at least three assists on the day, accounting for 21 of the team’s 26 assists. Even more impressively, the Hawkeyes committed just eight turnovers against the Spartans. While Ohio State does not struggle with sharing the ball (the Buckeyes average 14.9 assists per game), they certainly have not been as adept as the Hawkeyes in that category this season.
How many points Iowa has given up per game on average this season. That’s really bad. Like, worst-in-the-Big-Ten-bad. The Buckeyes are averaging 76.9 points offensively per game, but dropped 92 on the Hawkeyes in their last go-round in early January. Iowa has allowed at least 90 points in five conference games, and are 1-4 in such circumstances. Their only win came against Illinois, when the Hawkeyes managed 107 points on the offensive side of the ball. Iowa’s scoring margin is just +2.4 this season, and their 12 wins this year have all come when the Hawkeyes have scored at least 80 points. Ohio State, on the other hand, gives up just 66.1 points per game, and has a +10.8 scoring margin. While Iowa has some strong offensive weapons in Tyler Cook, Luka Garza and Jordan Bohannon, they have not, as a team, been able to translate that power to the other side of the court on defense.
Cast of characters
The freshman’s brother, Andre, had 10 points against Purdue Wednesday. Kaleb, meanwhile, had none in 12 minutes, sitting much of the game after getting into foul trouble going up against the Boilermakers’ Isaac Haas. It was a disappointing performance for a player who is averaging in double figures during his inaugural season with the Buckeyes. The two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week has started 22 of 25 games so far this season, and is one of the best shooters on Chris Holtmann’s squad, connecting on 57 percent of his attempts from the field. He is also one of the best in the Big Ten in offensive rebounds, pulling down 2.3 per game. In his last game versus the Hawkeyes, Wesson fouled out with 10 points. Expect an improved performance this evening.
The story of the Buckeyes’ season could not be told without Bates-Diop, who has not only proven to be a consistent shooter and scorer, but also a clutch player able to make shots when they count--like in the final seconds against Purdue. That combination is why the junior forward is suddenly in the conversation for nearly every major basketball award this season, including the Wooden Award, the Oscar Robertson Trophy and Big Ten Player of the Year. Bates-Diop leads the Big Ten in scoring with 20.2 points per game, and is third in rebounding with nine per game. His ability to shoot from range and from the line all while playing strong defense makes him one of the most multifaceted players in the conference.
The sophomore from St. Louis has been having an excellent season despite his team’s record. Cook is averaging 15.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game--both team highs. A reliable shooter, the 6-foot-9 forward is connecting on more than 57 percent of his shots from the field. Most recently, Cook dropped 26 points on Michigan State. He’s shown the ability to draw fouls--something that Purdue’s Isaac Haas was able to do against Ohio State Wednesday--which can put defenses in precarious situations down low. Cook has also been flashy at points, and has had 50 dunks this season. In Iowa’s last game versus the Buckeyes, Cook was the leading scorer for the Hawkeyes with 21 points on the day. And he continues to get better, even as Iowa slips. Four of his five double-doubles this season have come in his last seven games.
The point guard was questionable for the Hawkeyes’ outing against Michigan State earlier this week, but he started, played 32 minutes and recorded 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Along with Cook, Bohannon has been a rare, shining beacon on an otherwise struggling team. He is second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.7 points per game. The sophomore is one of the best three-point shooters in the conference, and has scored on 44.4 percent of his attempts from range. This season, he leads the Big Ten in three-pointers made with 75. When he is not shooting, Bohannon is an effective passer, averaging a team-best 5.3 assists per game. He is also clutch from the free throw line, connecting on greater than 89 percent of his attempts, and hasn’t missed in 30 tries. In fact, the last time Bohannon missed a free throw was in Iowa’s last game versus Ohio State. Bohannan is a microcosm of Iowa’s story this season. While he is an outstanding offensive weapon, his defense has serious room for improvement.
How to watch
Game time: 6 p.m. EST
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM