IOWA CITY, Iowa - Another nail-biting finish for the Iowa Hawkeyes and their fans ended in another what-might-have-been.
Iowa dropped a heartbreaking, 60-58, decision to Ohio State on Tuesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It represented the team's ninth league setback by eight or fewer points and the fifth time its fell by five or less.
"It's not tough to keep going," Iowa Guard Jermain Davis said. "We could easily be above .500. It just hasn't gone out way. But our luck has to change. Our luck can't go on the whole season like this. We have to keep fighting and keep playing hard and try to make it happen instead."
Said Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter: "We've just been tested this year. You just have to figure out how you're going to respond to it. We just have to get better. We have a pretty young team. There's a lot of basketball ahead of them. Hopefully we can draw off these things."
Devan Bawinkel broke out of his shooting slump in grand fashion for the Hawkeyes (14-16 overall, 4-13 Big Ten). The junior connected on 8 of 13 three-point attempts for a career-high 24 points, which tied Anthony Tucker for the team's highest output this season. The eight treys topped Tucker's previous 2008-09 best of seven against West Virginia.
"My teammates found me and set good screens," Bawinkel said. "I was open and I was happy to see them go in."
Jake Kelly continued his hot play at point guard in the absence of starter, Jeff Peterson, who missed his fifth game in a row with a strained hamstring. Kelly recorded his first double-double of the season with 19 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
Evan Turner netted 22 points for Ohio State (19-9, 9-8), who shot 55.6 percent from the floor.
"They were at the rim too many times," Lickliter said. "When you're shooting lay-ups and dunks, you're probably going to shoot it pretty well. They just drove it hard and I thought we kind of got out of the way."
The Hawkeyes came out of halftime hot. Bawinkel's trey finished off an 8-0 run and gave the home team a 40-32 lead with 18 minutes, 31 seconds to play in the game.
Ohio State countered with a 12-1 spurt to go up 44-41 with 13:06 remaining in the game. The contest stayed close from there. The teams stayed within three points of each other the rest of the way in a game that saw 14 lead changes and 10 ties.
With Ohio State leading 60-58 to play, Kelly was whistled for an offensive foul while dribbling about 25 feet from the basket. P.J. Hill stepped in front of him and took the charge, much to the disapproval of Kelly and Lickliter.
"That was an important play," Lickliter said.
Said Kelly: "He flopped a little bit, but that's basketball. I was changing direction when that happened. I wasn't forcing my way towards him. It was just a tough play. You just have to move past those."
Iowa still had opportunities as Ohio State went scoreless on its next three offensive possessions. Kelly misfired on a 3-pointer with :55 on the clock, Jermain Davis missed badly on a driving lay-up with :07 remaining and then his three-point attempt at the buzzer rimmed out.
"I thought it was good," Davis said of his trey attempt. "It just wasn't my night for shooting. It's tough to swallow. I felt like I had two back-to-back where I could have tied the game up at crucial moments. It just really left a sour taste in my mouth. I'll try to do better on Saturday."
With the loss, Iowa assured itself of a worse Big Ten regular season than it posted last season, the first under Lickliter.
"The style of play, we're going to keep it close most of the time," Kelly said. "We just have to be able to make plays down the stretch and be able to finish."
Iowa took a 32-30 lead into the locker room after Kelly knocked down a deep three with :03 on the clock. He finished the half with nine, while Bawinkel paced the home team with 12, connecting 4 of 7 trey attempt. Kelly also had seven boards at the break.
Bawinkel's final 3-pointer of the half gave Iowa a 27-19 lead with 4:39 to play before halftime. That capped a 9-0 Iowa run.
Ohio State responded with an 8-0 spurt of its own to tie it at 27-27 with 2:34 on the clock. Kelly then canned two free throws and the deep three with time running out.