IOWA CITY, Iowa - Ohio State deserved credit. The Buckeyes put together a good game plan and executed it.
That fails to tell the whole story of their 76-69 road win Tuesday night here at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, however. The rest of the tale consists of an all-around poor performance from Iowa, the favorite.
The No 17 Hawkeyes shot poorly, broke down on defense and turned the ball over more than they assisted on baskets. They also allowed Ohio State to dictate the pace of the game.
"Iowa is not a good basketball team, they're a great basketball team," Buckeye Head Coach Thad Matta said. "They get you in a lot of different ways. I thought our defense in the half-court was as good as it could be but they got us in some stretches where we didn't get matched up. Once we got that corrected, we wanted to turn it into, as much as we could, a half-court basketball game, which we didn't do in game one."
The Hawkeyes (17-6 overall, 6-4 Big Ten) knocked off then third-ranked Ohio State, 84-74, in Columbus last month. The Buckeyes pressed defensively and allowed Iowa easy baskets in transition. They also turned it over 17 times.
Tuesday, Ohio State pressed very little, weaved through the Hawkeyes' pressure and came to a standstill once it passed half-court.
"We want to get out and run," Iowa point guard Mike Gesell said. "Ohio State did a very good job of getting back. They didn't press us all night, basically, and they're known for pressing teams.
"They had a really big emphasis on getting back and not letting us get out and run. They really executed their game plan very well."
The Buckeyes half-court defense sagged into the lane. They switched on ball screens and closed off the driving lanes. They allowed Iowa to shoot from deep.
The Hawkeyes missed 17 of 20 three-point attempts. Relying on the triple has not been their game or strength this season.
"We had told our guys, I think they were only averaging 4.5 (three-pointers made) in Big Ten play," Matta said. "And they normally don't' take 20. They had to take some late. But their deal is they're so good in the paint and scoring the ball around the basket. They hit you so quick. They've got so many guys that can score down there.
"But hopefully our defense had a little something to do with it."
Ohio State placed senior point guard Aaron Craft on Hawkeyes' leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble. The 2012 Big Ten defensive player of the year held Iowa's star to 10 points on 4 of 11 shooting from the floor and forced him into four turnovers. Craft finished the game with six steals.
On the other end of the court, Marble guarded Craft after Gesell picked up his third foul. Marble held Craft to three points in the second half.
Other Buckeyes stepped up on offense. They worked the ball around the perimeter, winding down the shot clock until Iowa's defense allowed an opening.
"If you want to look at where we lost the game, we lost the game with defense in the second half (when OSU scored 45)," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "I don't think there's any question."
Perhaps the snapshot moment of the Hawkeyes' night came with just under five minutes to play in the game. They played strong defense for almost the entire shot clock, forcing Ohio State to inbound the ball with two seconds remaining on it. After a Buckeye timeout, they lobbed the ball to Amir Williams, who slammed it home for a six-point lead.
"It was a big play," McCaffery said. "When you're in that situation, guys don't want to give up everything, and they started running picks. We thought they would run a back pick for (Sam) Thompson, ran a back pick for Williams, and we chased it, so that was unfortunate."
The Buckeyes sealed the game at the free throw line, where they were 11of 14 in the last 1:17. Meanwhile, Iowa missed three of five foul shots in the final 2:43, which included the front end of a one and one.
"Again, it's a couple guys missing one here, one there, a couple guys missing two," McCaffery said. " We made them Saturday (at Illinois), we didn't make them tonight."
Iowa missed out a great opportunity for the second Tuesday in a row. Last week, Michigan State escaped Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a 71-69 overtime win. The Hawkeyes also were favored in that contest against a depleted MSU squad.
Instead of going into Saturday's home game against No. 10 Michigan two games behind the first-place Wolverines in the standings, Iowa sits three games back.
"We don't want to get carried away here," McCaffery said. "We lost to a real good team and didn't feel like we played our best. Give them credit for having a lot to do with that, and being ready to go."
Duly noted. But they had help from the home team.