The Buckeyes (11-15, 3-12) fell to the Hawkeyes (17-9, 9-6) 92-75 on Thursday night.
For Ohio State, it entered this contest with Iowa being its last win. On Jan. 21, the Buckeyes took down the Hawkeye 93-77 at home, led by 28 points from Brice Sensabaugh. The win broke a four-game losing streak and started to give some Buckeye fans hope that it was not too late to turn the season around.
Since then, the Buckeyes are 0-6, and have fallen to 13th place in the conference. The only team lower is Minnesota, who got its only conference win of the season at Ohio State.
It has been a tale of two halves for the Buckeyes so far this season. In their first 13 games, the Buckeyes were 10-3 while averaging 81.0 points per game. In their last 12 games, they are 1-11 while averaging 65.8 points per game.
It was another not-so-great start for the Buckeyes, as Iowa took a 10-5 lead quickly and the Buckeyes turned the ball over three times in three minutes.
However, they turned the corner and got going on the offensive side of the ball. The Buckeyes scored 15 points in the first 6:30 of the game and trailed 17-15. The Buckeyes scored just 14 points in the entire first half against Michigan State on Sunday, so that is a positive.
It was a back-and-forth game for most of the first half between both teams. Sean McNeil came off the bench and immediately hit a trio of three-pointers to get a quick nine points. With just over two minutes left in the half, Isaac Likekele found Brice Sensabaugh for a three-pointer that gave the Buckeyes a 36-35 lead.
THREE FOR BRICE PUTS THE BUCKEYES UP.— Ohio State Hoops (@OhioStateHoops) February 17, 2023
IOWA: 3️⃣5️⃣ https://t.co/RZrZWvWHfW
Then, in what seemed to be a two-minute description of the entire season thus far, the game fell apart.
Following the three-pointer, Sensabaugh got a steal off Iowa, but he missed the ensuing fast-break layup, which led to an Iowa three-pointer. In the next 90 seconds, Iowa would hit three more three-pointers off of two more Buckeye turnovers, and Iowa closed the half on a 12-0 run and led 47-36.
This was the fifth time in the last seven games that the Buckeyes trailed by double-digit points at the half. Sean McNeil led the Buckeyes in the opening period with 11 points, and Sensabaugh added nine points.
Tony Perkins led Iowa with 12 points in the first half, and Peyton Sandfort added 10 points off the bench. Perkins was 3-for-12 from the field in the Hawkeyes' last game.
Iowa won the first-half turnover battle 9-4 and outscored the Buckeyes 9-0 on points off turnovers. The Buckeyes did do a good job early on Iowa star Kris Murray, who came into the game averaging 21 points per game but only had six in the first half.
In the first three minutes of the second half, Iowa pushed their lead out to 56-40, and Roddy Gayle and Zed Key both left the game with injuries. McNeil did answer with a three-pointer, his 200th career made shot from deep.
Iowa went 15-for-19 from the field in the first 12 minutes of the second half. At the under-12 media timeout, Iowa pushed the lead to 72-51. The Buckeyes could not string together any stops or scoring runs, and Iowa won the game 92-75.
For Iowa, Tony Perkins finished with a game-high 24 points on 11-for-16 shooting. Kris Murray finished with 20 points. Connor McCaffery finished with 13 assists.
For Ohio State, Sean McNeil finished with 20 points on 7-for-7 shooting from the field and 4-for-4 from deep.
Here are three takeaways from the Buckeyes’ loss at Iowa.
Keep starting the freshman
For the second-straight game, the Buckeyes’ coaching staff decided to start three freshmen and bring the fourth, Felix Okpara, off the bench early. Bruce Thornton, Roddy Gayle and Brice Sensabaugh all were in the starting lineup in this contest.
It is time to face reality. Barring a run in the Big Ten Tournament and the Buckeyes getting the B1G automatic bid, they will miss the NCAA Tournament and will play in the NIT. With that being the reality they face, it is okay to start looking ahead to the next season.
Justice Sueing, Isaac Likekele, and Sean McNeil are all gone for sure, as their college eligibility will run out after this season. Brice Sensabaugh could decide to enter the NBA Draft but there is still a chance he will return along with Gayle, Thornton, and Okpara.
With four more freshmen coming in next season that will all contribute immediately, they have to get these younger guys as much time as possible as they will at least have two of them starting next season and could have all four of them in the starting lineup.
Let Bruce cook
No, that is not a typo. Yes, Brice Sensabaugh is the Buckeyes' best offensive player overall, but fellow freshman Bruce Thornton is an incredibly important piece to this team’s offensive identity and for the future of the program.
Thornton has started at the point guard position since day one and for the majority of the season, has been very good. He had a career-high 22 points against Northwestern and has been very successful offensively when he hunts his own shot. However, he does not always do that and sometimes takes a back seat to his own scoring to facilitate the offense.
Now the season is lost, so it is time to let him cook. He is an efficient three-point shooter that is physical in the lane and can create space to get a good shot off. He needs to take more of a role as a scorer so he is ready in that role next season alongside Roddy Gayle and incoming freshman Taison Chatman.
He was also named a captain two weeks ago as just a freshman.
Try to get some momentum heading into the offseason
This is more of a statement than a takeaway, but still — it is important.
As mentioned above, the Buckeyes are not heading to the NCAA Tournament unless they earn their way through the Big Ten Tournament. However, unlike last season, you have a lot of strong pieces returning.
Obviously, transfers can always happen, but presumably, Zed Key, Eugene Brown, Tanner Holden, Bruce Thornton, Roddy Gayle, and Felix Okpara will all be back and playing major roles on the 2023-24 Buckeye team. Sensabaugh could be back or could enter the NBA Draft.
All of these guys should play significant minutes moving forward, barring health issues, so they are ready to go next season as the 2023 recruiting class gets acclimated.
The Buckeyes are back in action on Sunday as they will head to Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and take on the Purdue Boilermakers (23-4, 12-4) at 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS.