The Hawkeyes (12-5, 3-1) jumped out to an early lead against the Buckeyes (14-4, 3-2) and never looked back, dispatching Ohio State at Value City Arena 71-65 on Dec. 30. Thad Matta’s team has a shot to return the favor and hand Iowa a loss at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Saturday at 2 p.m.
“We learned a lot from playing Iowa the first time,” sophomore Marc Loving said. “We’ll come out in our man-to-man defense and see how that works against them. Just working with what we got and sticking to our rules and our foundation and seeing how far it will take us against Iowa at their house.”
As the sophomore said, the Buckeyes will be in their man-to-man defense against the Hawkeyes tomorrow. Last time the teams faced off Ohio State was still entrenched in their 2-3 zone. The Buckeyes have appeared more aggressive since switching to man late in a game against Illinois, though they did drop a game against Indiana while playing man.
Matta said that aside from the defensive switch, the crystallization of roles and clarification of responsibilities is the biggest difference in the team since the last time they played the Hawkeyes.
“I think that there is a little bit more responsibility from what each guy has to do each possession,” the coach said. “I think that’s probably the biggest thing of saying, ‘This is your rotation, this is your guard, this is your block-out,’ you know as opposed to saying ‘We got to get it done, cover for each other.’”
In the teams’ first meeting, Iowa was led by 18 points each from Jarrod Uthoff and Aaron White. This time around the two forwards will not be working against a 2-3 zone, but will rather be manned up by Sam Thompson and Loving.
Thompson led the Buckeyes offense in the last meeting, scoring 17 points, but the Buckeyes big problem in that game came on the glass. The Hawkeyes won the rebounding battle 37-29, grabbing 15 offensive boards.
Iowa generally sends three players to the glass to offensive rebound, meaning that if the Buckeyes are able to corral the carom, they may have success getting out in transition.
“We know how important it is to rebound the basketball and get our transition game going,” senior center Amir Williams said. “The last couple games we’ve been up and down in terms of rebounding, but I think our main focus is just hitting somebody and going to get the ball.”
Despite two early losses in the Big Ten, Ohio State remains in the thick of the conference title race. While the league championship can’t be won this early, a team can play its way out of contention. Thankfully for the 3-2 Buckeyes, no team in the league is undefeated.
A win not only knocks Iowa from the league’s one-loss teams, it evens the season slate with the Hawkeyes.
“We feel like we had a good opportunity to win the first game, so we feel like our chances are pretty good going in to their house,” Loving said. “We’ve just got to go in with our minds ready to play. Hopefully we play our best game.”