On the road Wednesday night against Iowa, the Buckeyes again did not put together a solid 40 minutes of effort. Instead, they lived up to their billing as the No. 20 team in the country in the final seven minutes of the game, outscoring the Hawkeyes by a 25-12 margin en route to a 65-57 victory.
"I give our guys a lot of credit," OSU head coach Thad Matta told the Ohio State Basketball Radio Network. "They did keep their composure in the second half and made some big plays for us."
Using ball screens to attack the OSU defense and clogging the paint defensively, Iowa (8-13, 2-6 Big Ten) opened up its biggest lead of the night at seven points with 8:18 remaining in the game and could smell an upset brewing. Then, as they have done all season, the Buckeyes looked to star junior Evan Turner to make a play.
Turner connected on a drive to the basket with 6:44 remaining to start the comeback, but it was still a five-point deficit at 50-45 with 4:45 remaining. Junior forward David Lighty immediately answered with a three-pointer to pull OSU within two points, and after Iowa's Aaron Fuller missed a trey with the shot clock winding down the Buckeyes knotted the game on a basket from junior center Dallas Lauderdale with 3:35 remaining.
OSU (15-6, 5-3) then took its first lead since the 6:43 mark of the first half two possessions later on a Lighty basket, and the visitors would not trail again – although the final outcome remained in doubt until the final seconds.
"I don't remember what timeout it was in the second half, but I finally just said, ‘Fellas you have to play now. We have to make plays. We have to put the ball in the basket. You can't leave the guys we're leaving (open),' " Matta said.
Turner helped seal the deal with less than two minutes remaining. With OSU holding a 53-50 lead, Iowa inbounded the ball from underneath its own basket and attempted to feed the ball to 6-1 freshman point guard Cully Payne near midcourt.
Racing in like a defensive back in football, the 6-7 Turner plucked the pass out of the air and raced down the court, throwing down an uncontested one-handed dunk with his left hand to push his team's lead to five points.
It was a back-breaker.
Although Turner finished with a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, it was Lighty who carried the torch offensively during his team's second-half charge. The junior forward scored 18 of his game-high 20 points in the final stanza and played all 40 minutes of the contest.
Turner also came three assists from his third triple-double of the season.
Iowa went into the locker room with its biggest lead of the half at 25-20 after scoring four points in the final 13 seconds.
The Buckeyes had pulled to within one on a basket inside by junior center Dallas Lauderdale, but Iowa's Cully Payne took advantage of a high ball screen and drove around Lauderdale to convert an acrobatic basket in the paint with 13 seconds remaining to make it 23-20 in favor of the home squad.
"It was one of those deals at halftime where I lost my mind from the standpoint of 20 points," Matta said. "That's ridiculous. The thing that I thought we did in the first half is we didn't play with confidence."
The OSU coach called a timeout with 9.6 seconds remaining, but the ensuing play broke down and sophomore guard William Buford was forced to launch a deep three-pointer with a few seconds left. As he fought for position for the rebound, Lauderdale shoved sophomore forward Andrew Brommer – who had been inserted for the final minute of action in the half.
With 00.7 showing on the clock, Brommer hit both free throws at the other end to set the halftime score.
In addition to the 4-0 run to close the half, the basket capped a 16-6 run by the Hawkeyes after the Buckeyes had opened up their largest lead of the game at 14-9 with 8:06 remaining on a driving basket from junior guard Jon Diebler.
OSU went cold from there and would not score again until Lauderdale dunked a post feed from Buford at the 3:52 mark, breaking a 7-0 Iowa run. During a stretch of 4:34, OSU went 0 for 4 from the floor, missed two free throws and had a turnover.
Iowa took its first lead since the early going at the 5:26 mark when forward Jarryd Cole put back an Aaron Fuller miss.
Lauderdale led OSU with eight first-half points. Turner was held to two points and sat out the final 6:15 after picking up two fouls in the span of 28 seconds earlier in the half. As Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter told the Big Ten Network at halftime, "When he's not playing, it's hard for him to score."
As a team, the Buckeyes missed all seven of their three-point attempts in the first half while Iowa went 4 for 13 (30.8 percent). The teams were tied at 6 at the 12:48 mark, and neither team had a fast-break point during the first 20 minutes.
"There was something missing with our offense," Matta said. "I didn't think our drives were good. We were shooting more out of weakness than strength."
Iowa was led by Eric May's 18 points on 5 of 10 three-point shooting.