Another ranked team, another impressive Iowa performance. Playing without Eric May, the Hawks led the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes for much of the first half and hung close with them down to the wire. It was the Melsahn Basabe show throughout. The freshman showed off his entire repertoire: step-back jumpers, dribble drives, blocks, rebounds, even a nifty crossover to avoid some pressure in the back-court. He finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds (8 offensive!), six blocks, and finally seemed to shrug off the free throw jinx that has plagued Iowa all year, making 8 of 11 freebies.
Unfortunately it was also the Jared Sullinger show. The highly touted freshman got position at will and finished with a variety of nifty flips and baby hooks on his way to 24 points. The Hawks did some interesting things to frustrate Sullinger, like fronting him with one defender (usually Cole or Brommer) and then sending a second defender (usually Basabe) late to block his shot. I think Basabe's length and quickness surprised Sullinger, as a few of his shots were just wiped out at the rim. And despite Sullinger's NBA-caliber, Moses-Malone-sized backside and the great position it afforded him all night, the likely lottery pick shot only 11-20, well below his 59.5% season field goal percentage.
The Hawks truly played well enough to knock off the Buckeyes for about 30 out of 40 minutes last night. Those other 10 minutes, though... yeesh. You can see on the graph two vast deserts of non-scoring by Iowa, and the one that really hurt the Hawks was the one starting in the second half around the 14 minute mark. The Hawks went without a point for the next six minutes, during which time Ohio State stretched the lead to 13. Iowa made a furious comeback down the stretch, even cutting the lead to 3 with 40 seconds left, but that cushion proved to be just enough for the Buckeyes to win the game.
- Basabe was the star, but Matt Gatens deserves a lot of credit for creating offense when there was just nothing going on. A lot of times it seemed like it was four statues out there with Matt running around them trying to get open, yet he still managed to score efficiently, finishing with 14 points and 4-7 threes.
- Bryce Cartwright had an ... interesting game. He finished with eight assists but six turnovers, and many of the TOs were just mystifying. He's got a great handle and good speed, but his court vision needs some development (on the fast break he missed a couple people who were wide open for dunks or three-pointers).
- A couple turnovers Cartwright had came because he was taking the ball out under the basket. I really don't get this strategy. Ohio State would throw a center on him to defend the in-bounds pass, and tiny Bryce would struggle to find a man.
- Iowa did a great job on the offensive boards considering their size deficiency. The Hawks collected 40% of their available offensive rebounds, while the Buckeyes got only 37% of theirs. Considering that Ohio State had Sullinger and spider-armed, 1000 year-old senior Waco St. Augustine, err ... Dallas Lauderdale patrolling the paint, this was no mean feat. Credit goes to Basabe and Jarryd Cole, who accounted for 12 of Iowa's 13 offensive boards.
- I was at the game live, and while the crowd was a bit smaller than the Illinois game (no students, no opposing fans), the atmosphere was good. Thad Motta is a show in and of himself. His expressions of surprise and outrage recall the gesticulating theatricality of the silent film era.