Should they succeed, they will add an 11th conference title to a total that was already the best in the league, and this night they went through the team that had spent the previous 14 days holding at least a share of the Buckeyes' usual spot at the top. The Buckeyes beat Iowa for the 10th time in a row and took over the lead in the all-time series 25-24.
The win capped a fantastic week for Ohio State (20-6, 11-4), which in the span of four days jumped from third in the conference to first by decisively beating both teams that had sat above them in the standings.
First came Purdue, a 72-56 victim at Value City Arena on Monday night.
Then it was the Hawkeyes (18-9, 11-5), who fell behind by 14 in the first half and never recovered in front of 3,235 fans who braved forbidding winter weather in Columbus.
Smith, the Iowa point guard who entered averaging a team-best 13.0 points per game, finished with 17 against the Buckeyes but she was shut out in the first half while battling a full-court press.
"I think we kind of messed with their minds a little bit because sometimes we would go up on Smith and sometimes we would just level off against her and not be as aggressive," Trebilcock said. "I don't know how many steals we got off of it, but we took some time off the clock and kept them out of their comfort zone."
With some strong three-point shooting in the second half, Iowa avoided being blown out but never got closer than nine in the final 20 minutes.
"We dug ourselves such a big hole in the first half," Bluder said. "We did the same thing in our place. We actually won the second half if you look at points (31-30) but you can't dig yourself that big of a hole on the road against an excellent team."
In all, Iowa was 9 of 25 from long range while Ohio State made 6 of 12.
Also coming up with strong performances for Ohio State were Tamarah Riley, who had nine rebounds and five assists along with six points, and point guards Shavelle Little and Maria Moeller, who combined for 10 points, four assists and five steals while also harassing Smith.
As head coach Jim Foster liked to see, Ohio State started this effort with its defense.
The Buckeyes forced 17 turnovers, including 13 in the first half.
They scored 18 points off those giveaways and got energy from their defense that helped transfer to better offense.
The coach was not satisfied, however.
"No, we still have a lot of room to improve," Foster said. "I think our team realizes that, too. There's some things we do real well and there are things we can do better."