Thad Matta's answer to his team's struggles against Michigan State was to bench leading scorers LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. during Ohio State's torrid comeback attempt. Facing Iowa, their second ranked opponent within a week, the Buckeyes' leading scorers made sure that didn't happen again.
It just wasn't enough.
Iowa held the Buckeyes to 11 points in the final seven minutes and got 22 points from Roy Devyn Marble, as the No. 20 Hawkeyes defeated No. 3 Ohio State, 84-74, to score their first win over a ranked opponent.
In a matchup of the nation's most efficient defense (per KenPom.com) and the Big Ten's highest-scoring offense, Ohio State was seemingly locked in and ready to coast to a victory. The Buckeyes held Iowa without a field goal from the 18:15 mark to 11:58 remaining in the second half, coming back from a two-point halftime deficit. Ohio State (15-2, 2-2 Big Ten) led by as many as nine points.
Instead, the Hawkeyes showed that the most experienced team in the Big Ten is not to be taken lightly.
Three straight three-pointers from Mike Gesell, Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff sparked an 11-2 run from Iowa and tied the game at 55-55 with 10:28 remaining. Iowa continued the run despite intense pressure from the Ohio State defense, pulling away in the waning minutes by ratcheting up the efficiency on both ends of the floor.
The Hawkeyes (14-3, 3-1 Big Ten) are better known for their offensive efficiency, but they can thank their defense for holding on at the end. Employing a zone meant to mitigate Ohio State's athletic advantage, Iowa held the Buckeyes to just three field goals in the final 6:44—only one of which happened before garbage time. Ross scored a team-high 22 points and Smith added 10, but neither star was able to lock in when his teammates needed it most.
In fact, another category where Ross excelled for Ohio State proved crippling: turnovers. Ross' five turnovers were only eclipsed by teammate Aaron Craft's six, and the Buckeyes gave the ball up 17 total times—most of which came against that zone. Craft, whose efforts helped spearhead Ohio State's near-comeback against the Spartans, had only six points and fouled out late.
Outside of Devyn Marble, the Hawkeyes also got an excellent performance from Aaron White. The junior forward knocked down eight of his 12 shots en route to a 19-point, six-rebound afternoon. Melsahn Basabe had 11 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double.
Iowa was back playing under head coach Fran McCaffery, who was suspended for one game after bumping into an official in the Hawkeyes' 75-71 loss to Wisconsin. McCaffery, noted for his fiery coaching style, was noticeably less animated on the bench and indicated before the game he would learn from his past mistakes.
"I'm not perfect," McCaffery said, via Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com. "Nobody is. I'm not going to beat myself up over it. I'm not happy about it. I'm not proud of it. We're all, every one of us is never too old to learn, especially from your mistakes."
This was the Hawkeyes' first win over a Top Five opponent since 2001, according to the Associated Press via ESPN.com. Their 84 points also represented a season high against Ohio State, which had gone through the nonconference slate as arguably the best defensive team in the nation. The Buckeyes had only allowed 56 points per game heading into Sunday's contest.
As for Iowa, this should be just one of many firsts for this team. Returning all five starters from last year, McCaffery has the 2013 NIT runner-up well on its way to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006. Although the Hawkeyes have three losses already, all of them were by five or fewer points and against teams currently ranked inside the Top 10.
Ohio State is currently ranked No. 3, but it could see itself plummet following back-to-back losses. Although this is a talented and experienced club, Matta hasn't been able to help his players create their own shots consistently.
When the defense is at its best, that typically doesn't matter. Against Iowa, though, the Buckeyes found out the hard way what can happen against another elite opponent.
|F Melsahn Basabe||B|
|F Aaron White||B+|
|C Adam Woodbury||C|
|G Roy Devyn Marble||A|
|G Mike Gesell||B-|
|F Zach McCabe||D|
|F Jarrod Uthoff||B|
|C Gabriel Olaseni||C|
|G Anthony Clemmons||C|
|G Josh Oglesby||B-|
|F LaQuinton Ross||B+|
|C Amir Williams||B-|
|G Shannon Scott||C|
|G Aaron Craft||C|
|G Lenzelle Smith Jr.||C+|
|F Sam Thompson||C+|
|F Marc Loving||B-|
|C Trey McDonald||C|
|G Amedeo Della Valle||C|
Players of the Game: Roy Devyn Marble (G, Iowa), LaQuinton Ross (F, Ohio State)
This game was a perfect showcase of the improvements Devyn Marble has made as a senior. The young guard may never quite have his father's gift for filling up the buckets—Roy Marble Sr. is Iowa's all-time leading scorer—but he arguably affects the game in more ways.
In the first half, he was the glue that held the offense together. Devyn Marble had no trouble against the characteristically strong Ohio State defense, hitting six of his first seven shots en route to a 12-point half. He also filled up the stat sheet.
The second half wasn't quite as successful from a scoring standpoint—though 10 points is still pretty good—but Devyn Marble still proved effective by playing solid defense and getting teammates involved. Ohio State made a couple of adjustments to shift more help in Devyn Marble's direction, and the Hawkeyes responded by getting points elsewhere.
On the other side, Ross has to feel relieved about his performance as an individual. After an absolutely miserable outing against Michigan State, Ross started out 1-of-4 from the field and was seemingly disappearing for a second straight Top 25 contest.
The junior forward's performance certainly ran hot and cold. He was the only Buckeye with multiple turnovers in the first half, and his jumper again proved inconsistent. That said, the numbers don't lie. Ross wasn't perfect, but he was good enough to win. Unfortunately, his teammates weren't quite as stellar.
Ohio State gets a reprieve from the ranked-team gauntlet, but that doesn't necessarily mean it'll be an easy matchup. The Buckeyes visit a solid Minnesota team Thursday. As fate would have it—fate being the random Big Ten scheduler—Iowa's next game will also be against the Golden Gophers, who visit Iowa City next Sunday.
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