Ohio State visits Iowa City to take on the suddenly-feisty Hawkeyes as the B1G schedule grinds on. Just 1-2 on the road this season, Thad Matta’s gang will have to start proving it can win far from the friendly confines of The Schott. The Buckeyes (14-2, 2-1) dropped games at Kansas and Indiana and didn’t play particularly well at times in a victory at South Carolina, despite winning by 18. Coming off the dominance of Nebrasketball, they will look to win back-to-back B1G games for the first time this season. Iowa (10-6, 2-1) has won two straight and will enter the game with a lot of confidence coming back home after consecutive road victories. The Buckeyes are 69-73 in the all-time series against Iowa, with a 22-47 mark on the road. Ohio State has won the last six straight meetings, dating back to a 53-48 loss at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Feb. 2, 2008. It is the Buckeyes’ longest winning streak in the series. It’s noteworthy that Ohio State has only reached the 70-point mark twice in the last seven meetings, and both came last season. The BTN has the game at 3 p.m. with Brian Anderson and Shon Morris on the call.
Why am I suddenly concerned about Iowa? The Hawkeyes are 5-1 since their sluggish 5-5 start and are coming off back-to-back road wins in two of the conference’s toughest venues—Wisconsin’s Kohl Center and Minnesota’s Williams Arena. Those two road wins came on the heels of just a three-point home loss to Purdue. Clearly the Hawkeyes are feeling a little friskier than last season, when they lost their first six conference games by an average of 15 points. The Buckeyes came away with only a five-point victory in their last trip to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, though they did demolish the Hawkeyes by 22 in the rematch in Columbus. Combine that with the 36 OSU turnovers in the last two games and now you just might be feeling as uneasy as I am.
Senior guard Matt Gatens (#5) paces the Iowa attack, scoring 13.6 points per game. Gatens likes to fire the long ball, but is hitting just 34.3% on the season (23-67). He’s second on the team in steals (24) and third in assists (40, with just 14 turnovers). Sophomore guard/forward Devyn Marble (#4) also averages double figures in scoring (10.1). Marble leads Iowa in steals (26) and is second in assists (57, with 15 turnovers). Marble isn’t much of a threat beyond the arc, but is a good defender, who gave Jordan Taylor fits at Wisconsin. He struggled against Ohio State last year, failing to score in the two meetings. Sophomore forward Melsahn Basabe (#1) is often the team’s lone big on the floor, despite being only 6-7. Basabe is long and can clog up passing lanes and block shots. The team’s leading rebounder (6.0 RPG), Basabe averages 9.4 points, but scored 33 with 17 rebounds in the two games against the Buckeyes a year ago.
Senior guard Bryce Cartwright (#24) scores 6.7 points per game, but knocked down 10 in both OSU games last year. He also dished out 15 assists in those contests. Cartwright leads Iowa in assists (60, with 29 turnovers) and is fifth in the B1G in assists per game. Junior guard Eric May (#25) chips in 7.3 points and 3.1 boards per game. Sophomore forward Zach McCabe (#15) averages 7.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He has 11 starts and is in the mix with Cartwright and Marble for the two starting spots not occupied by Basabe, Gatens and May. Freshman forwards Aaron White (#30) provides a 6-8 frame off the bench. White, an Ohio native and Strongsville High graduate is third on the team in scoring (9.6 PPG) and rebounding (4.7 RPG), averaging 18 minutes off the bench. Fran McCaffery’s bench goes about eight deep typically for significant minutes.
McCaffery’s zone offense looks like a 3/2 (three on the perimeter and two low). He will run a cutter through the zone and likes to run a second cutter from the wing. On a short corner pass, his high post player will seal the backside defender. Watch for this. Also, when the high post defender vacates, the wing will cut into the high post area. If the corner can’t shoot or drive, there are variations on what the offense will do depending on where the pass goes. If you watch Iowa’s movement on offense you’ll begin to see the pattern. Here is a good diagram from a clinic talk McCaffery gave last year. The Hawkeyes also like to move the ball quickly in transition, making rebounding and avoiding turnovers essential for Ohio State.
Ohio State wins if: Sullinger finishes with 16+/10+, the Buckeyes keep their turnovers under 12, DeShaun Thomas and Buford reach double figures and Ohio State hits a third of their long-range shots (or more). Also, the starting five must avoid foul trouble. Those things are all indicative of Ohio State playing well, which has not been as frequent this season as we’d like. And if Ohio State plays well, I don’t believe Iowa has enough talent to beat them.
Iowa wins if: Sullinger and/or Buford struggle offensively, the OSU turnover trend continues, the Iowa defense holds Ohio State to under 45% from the floor and the Hawkeyes contest the three-point arc (or if Ohio State is ice cold from there, as has mostly been the case). Additionally, someone unexpected will likely need to have a good scoring night for the Hawkeyes to prevail. One of those previous factors is optional if a key player (or players) for the Buckeyes gets in foul trouble, except for the defense. Iowa is last in the B1G in scoring D and defensive field goal percentage.
Notes: This is the only regular-season meeting between the teams this season (they will not meet in Columbus)…Jared Sullinger averaged 25 points and 10.5 rebounds in the two meetings with Iowa last season…William Buford is 78 points shy of tying Jay Burson for eighth on the all-time OSU scoring list…Buford will start his 115th game, tying Jon Diebler for seventh most starts in Buckeye history. With 11 more starts he would tie Jamaal Brown and Jerry Francis for first…Thad Matta has a career record of 9-4 against the Hawkeyes.