Though the Ohio State defense left something to be desired for several long stretches, it came through at several key moments at the end to help the Buckeyes open up a three-game lead in the loss column as they approach a sixth consecutive Big Ten championship.
The Hawkeyes (11-11, 4-7) shot 55.2 percent from the field (31 for 58) and made 11 of 21 three-pointers (52.4 percent) but came up short because Ohio State had the two best players on the floor in crunch time.
After 35 minutes and two seconds of game action produced nothing but a 72-all tie, Buckeye stars Jantel Lavender and Samantha Prahalis made a trio of plays that gave Ohio State control of the contest.
First Lavender broke the tie with a layup set up following a tough pass from Prahalis, who then got the ball back for the Buckeyes by taking a charge at the other end of the floor.
The Ohio State sophomore point guard leapt in the air and let out an exasperated yell of satisfaction when she saw the official point back up the floor toward the Ohio State basket, and the Value City Arena crowd of 2,926 matched her enthusiasm with a standing ovation.
"Oh my gosh, so satisfying, because a couple times I thought it was there," she said. "I guess it wasn't, but just to get that was, ‘Thank you!'"
Back on offense, Prahalis drifted to an open spot on the right wing, where Brittany Johnson found her for a three-pointer that gave the Buckeyes a five-point advantage, 77-72, with 3:57 to go.
It was the kind of look that had been hard to find for anyone in scarlet and gray in recent games as the offense struggled with ball movement.
"I just think we did a good job reversing the ball and I just got it to go down," Prahalis said.
After Ohio State failed to build on its lead, Alexander was on the move toward the hole when Shavelle Little poked the ball away from behind and snapped it for a steal.
Prahalis followed with a pair of free throws, and Little went to work again.
This time, her victim was Iowa point guard Kamille Wahlin, who scored 18 points on the night but made a major miscalculation by trying a crossover dribble in front of the two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Little knocked it free in front of the Iowa bench and came up with the loose ball. She was quickly fouled and then hit 1 of 2 free throws.
Alexander answered with an uncontested layup with 13.3 seconds to go, then Prahalis hit a pair of free throws and Iowa's Jamie Printy hit a layup with one second to go to set the final score.
"That was my fault," Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said of Little's second steal. "I should not have had Kamille bring the ball up against her. We know what a great defensive player she is. I should have had somebody else bring the ball up against her."
Bluder's team gave the Buckeyes a stern test thanks to big offensive nights for Wahlin, Alexander (20 points) and Printy (22).
She was disappointed to see her team lose on a night it got such good performances from that trio, but she tipped her hat to Ohio State.
"Ohio State is an incredible team," she said. "They deserve their ranking and better in my opinion.
"We shot the ball well. I think Ohio State is capable of putting up big numbers any time."
Big numbers had been hard to find of late for the Buckeyes, though.
They broke 80 points in 10 of 13 nonconference games but only three times in 11 Big Ten games before Thursday night.
Ohio State head coach Jim Foster and his crew attributed the offensive breakout to better ball movement against the Hawkeyes.
Prahalis led Ohio State with 22 points while Lavender and Johnson both added 18 and Sarah Schulze had 11.
Johnson hit 4 of 7 three-pointers, including two crucial ones back to back that tied the game at 69 with 6:21 to go.
"I thought the reason I got those because we reversed the ball and moved the ball," Johnson said. "The defense had to move over, so I was open so I just took the shot."