It appeared Iowa was fighting a losing battle in containing Greg Oden from the beginning. By the time 7-footer Seth Gorney left right before halftime with a gash in his nose and Cyrus Tate was in foul trouble, there was little question the Hawkeyes were doomed.
Iowa made runs on three occasions Saturday night from large Ohio State leads to challenge the Buckeyes but ultimately faltered to an 82-63 defeat after being over-matched by Ohio State's size and quickness.
Oden scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Buckeyes, who shot just 6-of-20 from 3-point range. While Iowa's leading scorer Adam Haluska had a workmanlike evening with 15 points, it was freshman forward Tyler Smith that kept the Hawkeyes within striking distance until midway through the second half.
Smith, who was scoreless in the first 20 minutes, had 21 second-half points on 8-of-19 from the field.
Ohio State started off the game on a 9-0 run but Iowa countered with an 8-0 run - setting a common trend until the Buckeyes pulled away late. In the second half, Iowa had closed to within four points - 54-50, but Ohio State ripped off 14 unanswered points to put the game away for good.
Freshman point guard Mike Conley had a big game for Ohio State with 8 points and 10 assists.
Ohio State improved to 16-3 and 4-1 in the Big Ten. They are in a 3-way tie with Indiana and Michigan for second place. Wisconsin is 5-0 in the conference. Iowa dropped to 10-9 and 2-3 in the Big Ten.
What Ohio State Did Wrong...
* The backside baseline was a constant problem for Ohio State all evening. Especially on weakside rebounds. Iowa was slithering their way through the defense every time Oden stepped away opposite side.
* When Oden took a seat on the bench in the first half, the difference was noticeable defensively. Matt Terwilliger was rudely greeted with a foul and then giving up an easy lay-up under the basket. In the second half, he had a beautifully executed pick-and-roll but missed the lay-up instead of dunking the ball - all because a defender had a hand up. From a kid that does have some talent, you don't like to see that, especially if you're a coach.
* Although the proof was in the pudding with the final result (nearly half of Haluska's points were on the break or secondary break), I thought Haluska and especially Smith were really taking advantage of mis-matches with weaker defenders (i.e., Ron Lewis and Ivan Harris). When Oden sat in the first half briefly and especially to start the second half, Iowa really attacked on the dribble and down inside. I thought Oden was somewhat passive defensively Saturday night with going after shots.
* Despite the size disadvantage or some of Iowa's bigger guys being plagued with foul problems, Iowa simply outworked the Buckeyes on the boards on several possessions. The rebounding margin was even for the entire game, but there were several times in the second half where Iowa got two, three and four opportunities because of crashing the glass and Ohio State not boxing out very well.
* Iowa's secondary break hurt Ohio State once again. Finding shooters in transition has been an ongoing problem for the Buckeyes.
* If I'm Thad Matta, I don't let Ivan Harris shoot another 3-pointer unless his feet are square to the basket. Without charting this, I would be willing to bet he's shooting over 50 percent this season when he's squared to the basket (and not fading away). When he's not square, his percentage is significantly lower, I'm sure.
What Ohio State Did Right...
* Credit Ohio State's first-half defense - 11 turnovers including two shot-clock violations. The Buckeyes were extending their pressure out top and Iowa was not even acknowledging the low-post with Oden patrolling the paint. It was when Iowa started attacking in the second half that Ohio State had to adjust and step up in the intensity.
* Conley continues to cause problems breaking down defenders. His ability to attack a zone, man or even loose man wreaks havoc once he beats the first level of the defense. As he gets deep, he can dump it off to Oden, kick it out for a 3-pointer or finish.
* The stats will tell you Ohio State relied heavily on the outside shot Saturday evening (20 of their 53 shot attempts were from 3-point range). However, Ohio State executed a very good inside-outside game getting Oden touches and kicking it back out on a double-team or if he didn't have a good look. Oden's 29 points were coming because no one stopped him from gaining low-post position, and even if they did, he was abusing Iowa with the drop-step. The last three games (four if you count the last 5 minutes against Wisconsin), Oden has looked much more comfortable and ready to dominate the college level with more consistency. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that he is utilizing the right hand much more.
* Because he only scored 11 points, it might go overlooked that the recently slumping Daequan Cook bailed out Ohio State with two huge 3-pointers after Iowa cut their lead to four points. It was Cook that came up with several critical shots and really energized Ohio State down the stretch. Iowa's transition defense failed the Hawkeyes when they needed it the most.
Ohio State was expected to beat Iowa Saturday night. Although a 19-point victory is nothing to frown upon, the Buckeyes might want to re-evaluate their defensive consistency. Credit Iowa for hanging tough - despite being over-matched, Iowa battled back several times and nearly made things interesting late.
The Buckeyes have improved a tremendous amount since Mid-December. To function as a top-five unit, Ohio State cannot afford defensive lapses. Too often Ohio State will play great defense for 15 minutes and then let down their guard. Some of that is individual mistakes, but a team is a collection of individuals.
The difference for Ohio State is that instead of having letdowns late in a given possesions, they're coming in spurts after several minutes of inspired play. For Iowa, you've got to love the play of the 6-6 Smith. I recall seeing him at ABCD Camp two summers ago and being thoroughly impressed. Smith will be a great player when he becomes a consistent shooter.
Iowa simply didn't have enough guns on offense to win a game of this magnitude on the road, but there's a team you don't want to run into in the Big Ten Tournament. As for Ohio State, that Oden guy is coming on strong. Future opponents were afraid that would happen.