At the time Ohio State was set to tip-off in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday, one top-10 team had already been knocked off. Another—an unbeaten team—was minutes away from suffering a painful defeat.
Perhaps those results helped Ohio State develop a laser-like focus for their matchup against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Buckeyes certainly came out playing like they had something to prove.
After a slightly sluggish start, Ohio State took over and out-classed Iowa in front of 15,000-plus at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Buckeyes 76-47 blowout was quite a sobering result for the Hawkeye players and fans.
There was justifiable reason for excitement about this game after the Hawkeyes won two straight conference road games over then-No. 13 Wisconsin and Minnesota.
With Iowa appearing to have turned a corner—-from Big Ten doormat to a team capable of being around .500 in conference play—this was a game that Ohio State had to be careful about.
With No. 9 Georgetown having lost at West Virginia earlier in the day, and No. 6 Missouri losing at Kansas State, Ohio State needed to avoid falling into the same trap that many highly-ranked teams do when they go on the road early in the conference schedule.
Two more top-10 teams—No. 8 Connecticut and No. 10 Louisville—would eventually fall to Rutgers and Notre Dame, respectively, later in the evening.
With the game tied at nine about 10 minutes into the game, Thad Matta gave a talented but less-proven freshman an opportunity to shine alongside Jared Sullinger. With Aaron Craft struggling early on, having committed three turnovers and two fouls in the first nine minutes, Matta went to Shannon Scott—a high-school All-American.
Scott contributed in a big way, with four rebounds and five assists that sparked a 19-10 Buckeye run over the remainder of the half.
Where should Ohio State be ranked this coming week?
The extended scoring burst erased any possibility of Ohio State becoming yet another top-10 upset victim.
Saturday’s win made Ohio State stand out amongst a group of really good teams ranked between six and 10 of the ESPN/USA Today poll. The losses by Missouri, Georgetown and Connecticut were all on the road in tough environments.
Kansas State’s home court, along with their size and physical play, presented a very tough matchup for an undersized Missouri team. Same for West Virginia, who is a tough matchup for any Big East team who visits Morgantown.
Rutgers had knocked off another top-10 team (Florida) at home just 10 days earlier, so they had the confidence and enthusiasm that made UConn ripe for an upset.
Games like these are not uncommon once the schedule turns to conference play, and almost everyone will experience them at least once or twice this season. The fact that Ohio State was able to avoid the same pitfall on Saturday helps show they are still a top-five team.
With No. 3 Duke also losing at unranked Temple earlier in the week, Ohio State will likely return to the top five in the new rankings. The Buckeyes' only two losses this season—at Kansas and at Indiana—are absolutely nothing to be ashamed about, and should not take anything away from what they have done, and what they can do going forward.
There may not be more three or four teams in the country who could win either of those games.
Remember, Sullinger did not play against Kansas. After his 28-point performance yesterday, he appears to once again be the dominating force that will make the Buckeyes a championship contender.
It’s time to once again include Ohio State among the short list of the nation’s elite.