OSU Heads To Iowa; Schott In Arm Column

There's an interesting race shaping up in the Big Ten this season. Wisconsin is in first place at 5-1, and there are five teams in a logjam for second place at 4-2. Two of those teams are Ohio State and Iowa, who will meet Saturday night in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes are undefeated at home this year.

Ohio State will look to do something that no other team has been able to accomplish this season: beat Iowa in Iowa City.

The No. 16 Buckeyes (14-2, 4-2 Big Ten) and Hawkeyes (15-5, 4-2) will face off at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena (8 p.m., ESPN Plus).

Iowa is 12-0 at home and is one of five teams in a logjam for second place in the Big Ten – a group that includes Ohio State.

Iowa's leading scorer is guard/forward Adam Haluska (6-5. Jr.). He averages 15.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

Forward Greg Brunner (6-7, Sr.) has enjoyed a productive college career and this year has been no different. He is averaging 13.9 points and a Big Ten-best 10.4 rebounds.

Also for the Hawkeyes, point guard Jeff Horner (6-3, Sr.) is averaging 12.4 points and 6.6 assists, and center Erek Hansen (6-11, Sr.) is averaging 6.9 points and 3.2 blocked shots.

The Hawkeyes are coming off of a 73-60 win over Indiana in Iowa City on Tuesday.

Ohio State has not played since Jan. 21 when it defeated host Penn State, 75-64.

Center Terence Dials (6-9, Sr.) leads OSU in scoring at 14.5 points, and is second on the team in rebounding at 6.9.

Also for the Buckeyes, guard Je'Kel Foster (6-3, Sr.) is averaging 14.2 points and 5.0 rebounds, and guard Ron Lewis (6-4, Jr.) is averaging 12.8 points.

Ohio State head coach Thad Matta knows it's going to be a tough task to go on the road and beat Iowa.

"I think Iowa is playing great basketball. I think they are a very talented team," he said. "You're looking at a team that has everybody back from a season ago when they won 21 games. Getting Horner back I think makes them a better basketball team, he seems like he makes them go. It seems like their guys have really settled into their roles. And at home this year, they're undefeated and have a great string going. It's a tremendous challenge for our team and hopefully we've had an opportunity to get some rest. "The big difference this year with them is their defense is so much better. They're really defending well. They're doing a great job of rebounding. It's a game where toughness is going to be very important."

The week off came at a good time for the Buckeyes. They were able to get some rest, as well as work on some fundamentals.

"I think it went very well," Matta said. "I think the big thing is trying to fine-tune what we're doing and getting more belief in what we're doing, how we're doing it. Keeping your competitive spirit. We've gone at each other a lot. We're constantly thinking of ways to get this basketball team playing better today than we were yesterday. And give the guys credit. They came in and worked hard this week."

When asked if his team was playing with more confidence this year, Matta said: "I don't know if I'd use the word confidence, as opposed to trust. I think guys have a better feel and a better trust in each other and what we're trying to do. They are trusting themselves and I guess that becomes confidence."

As for Brunner, the rugged forward has been a thorn in OSU's side throughout his career. If the Buckeyes want to hand Iowa its first home loss of the year, they will have to contain him.

"Brunner goes inside, outside, he drives the ball, he gets to the foul line, he rebounds, puts them back in and that sort of thing," Matta said. "We really don't have that at our power forward position."

The Players' View

Foster made it no secret what the Buckeyes concentrated on during practice this week.

"Rebounding, mainly," he said. "And defense. … Just wanted to make sure everybody was on the same page. We don't want to play like we played at Penn State again. We just learned from the situation and tried to get better as a team."

Foster has been in a bit of a shooting slump for his standards, but he's still shooting 54 percent from the floor, and 47 percent from 3-point range.

"The team is shooting good," Foster said. "We're taking great shots. Hopefully they will fall down (Saturday). We're just going to keep taking the shots we've been taking."

Foster knows that the Hawkeyes are an NCAA Tournament-caliber team.

"Iowa is a great team," he said. "They're leading the league in rebounding – an area we've been struggling. We're just going to try and keep them off the glass and keep taking the shots and hopefully get a win (Saturday). … They are going to throw a variety of defenses out there. They're a well-coached team. We're just going to throw different defenses at them and try and execute our offense."

Foster will likely guard Haluska for most of the game.

"They have a great backcourt, like everybody else in the Big Ten," Foster said. "They shoot the ball and their guards run their team real well. We're going to try and disrupt what they try and do."

* Ohio State forward Matt Sylvester (6-7, Sr.) is averaging 8.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. He is shooting just 42 percent from the floor, but played well against Penn State with 14 points.

As a fifth-year senior, Sylvester knows all about Iowa and what makes it so good.

"They're a very rough and tough kind of team," Sylvester said. "I was very impressed with their win over Indiana. Their stadium seemed like it was really rocking. It's going to be a tough atmosphere and we're going to try and pull it out."

Sylvester could be matched up against Brunner when he's in the game.

"I think he's just incredibly tough, mentally and physically," Sylvester said of Brunner. "He's very big and strong, he's active, he's in shape. He's just a warrior and he grinds out rebounds."

With up to seven teams vying for the Big Ten title, Sylvester knows this is a key game for both sides.

"I really think this is a must-win game," he said. "They're very hungry and thirsty to get back in the top 25. It's just going to be a battle of wills and hopefully we can overcome."

* Forward J.J. Sullinger (6-5, Sr.) continues to have a solid year for OSU, averaging 9.6 points and a team-best 7.1 rebounds.

Sullinger knows that hitting the boards will be crucial to OSU's success in Iowa City.

"We've been working on rebounding a lot because Iowa is a pretty good rebounding team," he said. "They're first in the Big Ten, so that's what mainly what we've been working on because Penn State hit us on the boards pretty hard."

Sullinger says there are a myriad of reasons why Iowa is a good team.

"They've got good personnel. They've got good guys, they understand the system and they play it down to a T," he said. "They definitely help each other. And they have one of the best shot blockers in the country. We understand that and we've been working on things to do against them."

Saturday is the only scheduled meeting between OSU and Iowa this season, which adds even more intrigue.

"Definitely. It adds a lot," Sullinger said. "Just like the Indiana game. We only got one shot at them and it was on the road. It's hard to win on the road, but it's something that needs to be done if you want to win the Big Ten championship."

Schott In The Arm Column

Bucknuts basketball correspondent Kyle Lamb has posted his latest Schott In The Arm column. This column is posted on the premium basketball board.

Notes in this column include:

* A look at how hard it can be to win on the road in the Big Ten.

* Thumbnails on each of the seven identified Big Ten contenders.

* A look at the Big Ten's top point guards.

* Speculation on who could play the power forward spot next year for OSU.

* A look at key prospects OSU is tracking in the current junior class.

* A look at even more key freshmen and sophomores who could get a look.

* And much more.

Remember, this column is for Bucknuts.com premium subscribers. Here is the link:

Schott In The Arm: Jan. 27


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