The Buckeyes may have lost some believers on the final day of 2011, but seven short days – and a year – later, Ohio State made its second-consecutive statement in a 76-47 rout of a hot Iowa team in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Jared Sullinger scored a season-high 28 points for the Buckeyes (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten), proving that road woes may have been a thing of the past after handily beating a Hawkeyes team that just won consecutive road conference games.
Ohio State found itself in a considerably close game for the majority of the first half but it went on a 16-2 run that started at the end of the first half to open up a commanding 38-21 lead. With the help of Sullinger, who continued to convert offensively in the final 10 minutes of the game, the Buckeyes never allowed the Hawkeyes to threaten again.
The game became reminiscent of Ohio State's 71-40 victory over Nebraska on Jan. 3 when the lead reached 60-33 with just under eight minutes remaining in the game. The Buckeyes' three wins in conference play have all been by at least 29 points.
Ohio State struggled with road woes in all three previous games away from Columbus – two of which resulted with the team's only two blemish's of the season – but the Buckeyes didn't have the benefit of Sullinger in this form in any of those games.
The sophomore big man missed Ohio State's loss at Kansas with back spasms before suffering an injury to his foot a week later at South Carolina, forcing him to miss all but six minutes of the win over the Gamecocks.
Though Sullinger was past his injury issues by the time the Buckeyes lost at Indiana, he missed the final first 10 minutes of the first half with foul trouble. Though playing down the stretch, Sullinger was limited in what he could do defensively as he tried to avoid the fouls that could have ultimately caused him foul out.
Against the Hawkeyes (10-7, 2-2), Sullinger may have been at his best this season. Not only did the big man shoot for a high percentage, finishing the game having made 13 of his 20 shot attempts (65 percent), he also grabbed eight rebounds and had four steals.
Sullinger's strong performance, which included the sophomore scoring 11 of Ohio State's final 17 points in the first half to build a 28-19 lead at the break, helped the Buckeyes overcome a rough outing by senior guard William Buford.
Buford missed all 10 of his field goal attempts in the first half. He had a better effort in the second half before finishing the game with eight points and he led all Buckeye rebounders with 11 boards.
Ohio State found foul trouble yet again in the first half, as three Buckeye starters sat the final 11 minutes of the first half. Iowa, who was in the bonus for over 10 minutes in the second half, was unable to establish an advantage.
Aaron Craft was one of the starters in foul trouble, but was relieved by freshman point guard Shannon Scott who had a productive day. With Craft on the bench, Scott had five assists, five rebounds, two points and no turnovers in the first half, including energy plays the helped the Buckeyes fend of an Iowa squad threatening to make a run.
The Buckeyes are in action next Tuesday at Illinois at 9 p.m.