Winners of three of their last four games and in position for a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament if the season ended today, Ohio State (16-7, 9-5) knew that its defense would be tested today against the Iowa Hawkeyes (18-8, 8-7) and their high-soaring offense. Iowa is the No. 6 offense in the nation according to KenPom, leads the Big Ten in scoring (83.8 PPG), and has a National Player of the Year candidate in Keegan Murray (23.3 PPG, 8.4 REB). They also avoid turnovers like the plague (8.9 TO per game) and have 10 players averaging 10 or more minutes per game.
Why then, were the Hawkeyes only 7-7 in conference play entering today’s game? Well, they can’t defend a lick. For as lethal as their offense is, their defense is equally as suspect. Iowa has the No. 122 defense in the nation, which is the third-worst in the B1G, better than only Minnesota and Nebraska. They found a way to yield 87 points to Maryland a few weeks ago, but still won by 23 thanks to their eye-popping offense.
The Buckeyes were looking to defend their unbeaten home record, which was 11-0 entering today’s game — their best home record since the 2013-2014 team started the season 12-0 at home. Iowa saw their three-game winning streak snapped with their narrow loss to Michigan Thursday night.
Chris Holtmann rolled out the same starting lineup he’s utilized the last two games: Jamari Wheeler, Malaki Branham, Eugene Brown, E.J. Liddell, and Zed Key. Although not in the starting lineup, Meechie Johnson was available off the bench after missing two games with an ankle injury suffered during Ohio State’s loss to Rutgers.
Fran McCaffery went with a starting lineup of Filip Rebraca, Jordan Bohannon, Tony Perkins, Keegan Murray, and Patrick McCaffery.
The star-studded matchup of the night was Liddell versus Murray, who were also paired with each other on defense throughout today’s game. But Ohio State’s offense was kick-started by Branham, who scored the Buckeyes’ first seven points of the game. He also had a steal in the opening minutes. Ohio State led 9-7 at the first media timeout.
After Branham landed the first punch, Iowa’s Murray turned the heat way up, going on a 10-0 run all by himself over 1:54 to get Iowa back within one point, 21-20. Murray had 18 of Iowa’s first 25 points, and his Hawkeyes trailed by just one point at the under-8 timeout, 26-25.
The teams went back and forth at a rapid pace over the final minutes of the first half, with Iowa ultimately heading to the locker room with a 39-38 halftime lead. Murray dropped 20 points over the first 20 minutes, while the other nine Hawkeyes who played combined for 18 points. Liddell (10), Young (10), and Branham (12) all scored in double digits for the Buckeyes in the first half.
The Buckeyes opened up a four-point lead early in the second half, but Jordan Bohannon and Kris Murray — not Keegan — powered up and got the Hawkeyes back in front, 54-49 by the under-12 timeout. With Liddell, Key, and Wheeler all dealing with foul trouble, Iowa suddenly found a bit more space to work with on the offensive end.
As the second half wore on, the Murray brothers continued to stretch Iowa’s once-thin lead. At the final media timeout with 3:53 remaining, the Hawkeyes led 68-57 thanks to a combined 35 points from Iowa’s twin big men.
Ohio State tried to scratch back, cutting Iowa’s lead to six points in the closing minutes. It was not enough, however, and Iowa’s offensive rebounding (20 offensive boards) iced the game away and secured their first Quad-1 victory of the season, and Ohio State’s first home loss of the year.
If you weren’t around today to watch Iowa dominate the boards, here are a few of the key moments and plays that led to the Buckeyes’ first home loss of the season.
After two relatively mundane games against Michigan and Minnesota (6 and 11 points), Branham was Ohio State’s fire starter this afternoon by scoring OSU’s first seven points of the game and nine of their first 16. At the 16:24 mark of the first half, the score was Branham 7, Iowa 7.
All Murray all day
Of all the Big Ten Player of the Year and National Player of the Year candidates, Murray probably gets the least love/press of all of them. He is the third-leading scorer in the country, leads the Big Ten in scoring, and does it at an incredibly efficient rate.
Iowa’s star sophomore went ballistic in the opening minutes of today’s game, scoring 13 of Iowa’s first 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting. He also drew two fouls — one on Key and one on Kyle Young. His and-one dunk cut Ohio State’s lead to 21-20 with 10:59 to go in the first half.
Keegan Murray would finish with 24 points on 10-17 shooting over 36 minutes.
Liddell beats the buzzer
After jumping out to an early 11-point lead and then seeing it erased single-handedly by Murray, the Buckeyes began to jostle back and forth with the Hawkeyes in their efforts to stretch out their thin lead. With a 29-27 lead and 4:55 remaining in the first half, Jamari Wheeler held the ball in front of the Iowa bench, the shot clock was ticking down, down, down.
When it hit four seconds, he passed to Liddell near the left elbow. Liddell did not have a clean look, so he spun around and knocked down a fading jump shot with one second remaining on the clock, canning it and giving Ohio State a 31-27 lead.
Liddell finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocks in 35 minutes.
Bohannon does it himself to end the half
With 51 seconds remaining in the first half, Liddell missed the front end of a one-and-one. The rebound went long, and Branham corralled the loose ball. He drove to the basket himself but missed, and the rebound ricocheted off Young’s foot and out of bounds.
On the bench, Bohannon pointed two fingers and then one, reminding his teammates to make sure to get their shot off quickly and go two-for-one. Bohannon promptly checked in and nailed a three-pointer in front of Ohio State’s bench, giving his Hawkeyes a 39-36 lead just before halftime.
Bohannon finished with 10 points, a rebound, and an assist in 30 minutes.
Another quick half-dozen for the freshman
Trailing 39-38 to start the second half, Branham scored a quick six points over the first 2:25 of the second half to help give Ohio State a four-point lead, 45-41. The Buckeyes’ star freshman got to the basket consistently against Perkins and Toussaint, but — clearly — the struggle today was defense, not offense.
Branham finished with 22 points — his third highest output of the season. He also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and had two steals in 35 minutes.
Bohannon draws Wheeler’s fourth foul
With the game tied at 49 and 12:44 remaining, Bohannon had the ball near Iowa’s bench and the shot clock was winding down yet again. Wheeler — who knows Bohannon’s affinity for the three-ball — stuck to him like glue, knowing Bohannon would not pass with the clock winding down. Wheeler went straight up, and Bohannon jumped into Wheeler on the shot. A foul was called — Wheeler’s fourth — and Bohannon went to the line for three free throws.
Chris Holtmann ran towards the ref at mid-court and had to be restrained by his staff. Somehow, a technical foul was not called on Holtmann. Bohannon knocked down two of three at the line, giving Iowa a 52-49 lead.
Super Murray Bros
After two Brown free throws cut Iowa’s lead to 58-53, Keegan and Kris Murray went on an 8-0 run (six from Kris) to give the Hawkeyes their biggest lead of the game, 64-53. At the same time, Ohio State went through a drought of over six minutes without a made basket.
Kris Murray ended the game with 11 points and 8 rebounds in 27 minutes. Keegan Murray finished with 24 points and 5 rebounds.
Iowa grabs two offensive possessions & ends it
With their lead whittled down to just six points with 2:16 remaining, Kris Murray’s three-pointer missed and went long, back to Connor McCaffery. McCaffery burnt a bunch of clock and passed to Ulis, who missed a layup and Bohannon grabbed the rebound. Bohannon then found McCaffery, who buried a three to give Iowa a 71-62 lead with 1:44 remaining.
No. 18 Ohio State (16-7, 9-5) finishes their three-game home stand Monday evening against the Indiana Hoosiers (16-9, 7-8) at the Schottenstein Center. IU’s stingy defense (No. 20 according to KenPom) baffled the Buckeyes back on Jan. 6 in Assembly Hall, as the Hoosiers coasted to a 67-51 win. Their 51 points that night was, and still is, Ohio State’s lowest scoring output of the season.
Ohio State has gone 7-4 since losing to Indiana last month. The Hoosiers are 5-6 since that victory, and have seen their strong NCAA Tournament odds become a bit more hazy.
Ohio State’s game vs Indiana will be broadcast on FS1 at 7:00 pm E.T.