Virtually every sports fan knows the old cliché—a win is a win. Well, that saying applies perfectly to the Ohio State basketball team’s effort Tuesday night against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The Buckeyes came away with a 72-63 victory, but they held a 24-point lead at one time and let the Hawkeyes climb all the way back to within five points, which led to some uncomfortable rumbling from the crowd.
There were some positive signs though, including a more balanced scoring attack (four players in double figures instead of just Deshaun Thomas), impressive free-throw shooting down the stretch, Amir Williams’ six blocks and the fact that Aaron Craft became the all-time steals leader in Ohio State history.
However, Thad Matta was undoubtedly focused on the red flags after the game. Here are five of them.
There were a handful of red flags from Ohio State’s victory over Iowa, but none of them were quite as red as the defensive rebounding effort.
The Hawkeyes racked up an unfathomable 19 offensive rebounds, 11 of which came in the first half. Had Iowa shot better than 35 percent from the field, 33 percent from downtown and 50 percent from the field, the Buckeyes would have walked away with a crippling loss in the conference standings.
In fact, if we count free throws, the Hawkeyes missed an incredible 53 shots Tuesday yet still had an opportunity to win down the stretch. With players like Amir Williams, Evan Ravenel, Sam Thompson, LaQuinton Ross and Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State should never give up double-digit offensive rebounds, let alone nearly 20.
Credit to Lenzelle Smith Jr. though, who has perhaps developed into the team’s best rebounder from the shooting guard position. He grabbed six boards and was more than ready to mix it up inside.
Meanwhile, the 6’11” Williams didn’t get a single rebound.
Aaron Craft has close to a 3-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, but that certainly wasn’t the case on Tuesday.
The Buckeyes’ floor-general coughed it up six times, many of which were down the stretch when Iowa was cutting into the lead. LaQuinton Ross wasn’t much better, turning it over four times himself, despite playing 20 minutes and not serving as a primary ball-handler.
Ohio State ended up with 17 total turnovers, which was a major reason why the Hawkeyes almost made up a 24-point deficit. To make matters worse, Thad Matta’s bunch only tallied 12 assists.
Even a 1-1 assist-to-turnover ratio would spell disaster for the Buckeyes down the stretch in the Big Ten, so any more showings like Tuesday will be tough to overcome.
This goes hand in hand with the previous slide. A primary reason why Ohio State struggled so drastically with turnovers Tuesday was its trouble handling the full-court press Iowa threw at it in the second half.
To Fran McCaffery’s credit, it was a genius coaching move. Ohio State was up by 12 at halftime and came out of the locker room on fire. Had McCaffery not implemented the press, the Buckeyes likely would have run the Hawkeyes out of the gym.
A backcourt combination of Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Shannon Scott should never struggle with a full-court press, especially against a team that they are superior to in the athleticism department.
At least Thad Matta will have something to work on in practice this week.
At this point Ohio State’s major concerns are fairly clear—Deshaun Thomas is the only consistent scoring threat, the center position isn’t exactly Big Ten-championship caliber and the half-court offense has the tendency to be a train wreck, just to name a few.
Well, a variety of Buckeyes scored on Tuesday, and the center combination of Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams had its bright spots (Williams’ six blocks and Ravenel’s 11 points). However, the half-court offense was anything but efficient.
Ohio State sleep-walked through the first few minutes but went on an extended run from the end of the first half to the beginning of the second half when it picked up the pace and got out in transition.
However, when Iowa implemented its full-court press and forced Ohio State to slow things down, the offense once again went off the rails. Were it not for clutch free-throw shooting from Aaron Craft, there would be a lot more unrest in Buckeye Nation today.
Stop me if you have heard this before—Ohio State gradually jumped out to a large lead and seemed to have control of the game before (almost) letting it slip away.
The Buckeyes won in a similar fashion against Michigan and fell to Duke and Kansas after allowing each to completely overcome early deficits. At some point, this Buckeye team is going to have to find a way to put these teams away if it hopes to accomplish its goals for the season.
Deshaun Thomas missed a few minutes Tuesday when he received a nasty cut over his right eye. After that, what once was a seemingly insurmountable lead against a good but not great Iowa team nearly evaporated.
At this point Thad Matta would probably be thrilled with a complete 40-minute effort in the next contest at Penn State.