Five More Thoughts on Iowa's Win over Ohio State

Go get 'em, Mel. - Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa beat Ohio State yesterday! It was awesome! Let's talk about it a little bit more.

A few more thoughts about Iowa's emphatic 84-74 win over #3 Ohio State yesterday...

1) Iowa's offense is legit.

I don't think there was a lot of doubt about around here about the potency of Iowa's offense -- that scorching 86.4 ppg scoring average (7th best, nationally) speaks for itself pretty well (to say nothing of their 119.6 offensive efficiency rating per KenPom, 3rd best in the nation), as does the fact that they've been held under 80 points just four times all year.  But it's one thing to score all those points on defenses that are... not too stout.  It's another thing to score that many points on an elite defense.  Right?

Or maybe not, since Iowa lit up Ohio State's defense for 84 points yesterday -- in regulation.  Prior to yesterday, Ohio State hadn't given up more than 72 points in a game all year and that came against Michigan State in overtime last week.  Iowa matched that total on a Basabe tip-in with three minutes to play.  Perhaps this year's Ohio State defense isn't as stifling as past units (although their gaudy KenPom rankings this year suggest otherwise), but still: what Iowa did to them yesterday is not exactly commonplace:

Of course, the Ohio State game wasn't the first time Iowa's offense has lit up a top-notch defense this year: Iowa put up 71 points on Wisconsin (currently 12th in defensive efficiency) and 83 (albeit in OT; 75 in regulation) on Villanova (currently 7th in defensive efficiency).  Torching the top-ranked defense is just a continuation of that trend -- and further proof that this is an Iowa offense that can score, man.  Sit back and enjoy the ride.

2) Josh Oglesby's big stretch.

As Adam noted in his post-game piece yesterday, the three consecutive three-pointers drained by Iowa in the second half yesterday was the turning point in Iowa's comeback; that took a 53-44 Ohio State lead and turned it into a tie game at 55-all (there were also a pair of made Marble free throws in that run), which put Iowa right back into a game that looked like it was on the verge of slipping away.  But there was another key stretch that was really impressive just a few minutes later.

After Ohio State rebuilt their lead to 60-55, Basabe chopped it down to 60-57 on a layup.  And then Josh Oglesby basically took over for a full minute.  He made a terrific leaping block* to deny a shot on one end, then hustled down the court and drained a three (tying the game at 60-all); seconds later he added a lay-up off a beautiful back-door cut (assisted by Zach McCabe) to again tie the game at 62 apiece.  Oglesby has been a somewhat divisive figure over the last few seasons, but that sequence seemed to highlight the potential he has -- and why McCaffery has stuck by him so doggedly.  Oglesby's probably not ever going to become an elite all-around player, but he does have a fair amount to offer to this team.

* Although my memory might be playing tricks on me there: the box score doesn't credit Oglesby with a block yesterday. EDIT: The friendly neighborhood comments section informs me that it was actually a steal on an alley-oop pass.  Which is kind of like a block, right?  Either way, it was still an awesome defensive play by the oft-maligned Oglesby.

3) Iowa's veterans won this game.

Iowa's a deep team (obvious statement is obvious) and it's likely that different players will take starring roles in different games this year, but yesterday was a game for the old guard to shine.  The standout players yesterday were Roy Devyn Marble, Melsahn Basabe, and Aaron White.  Marble led the team in scoring (22 points on 7/13 shooting and a throwback performance from the free throw line, 8/11) and filled the rest of the stat sheet pretty well too (4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks).  White added 19 points (on 8/12 shooting), including several key buckets during Iowa's torrid second-half comeback (including a rare three-pointer; White's attempting 0.7 threes a game so far this year, down from 1.7 per game as a freshman and a sophomore).  And Basabe added 11 points and 10 rebounds -- most of which came in the final four minutes as Iowa salted their win away (he had 5 points and 5 rebounds in that stretch and it seemed like every OSU miss caromed directly to Mel).

It seemed fitting that those three were the ones to lead Iowa to this victory.  One of Basabe's first statement games came against Ohio State as a freshman, when he put up a tremendous stat line -- 22 points, 13 rebounds, 6 blocks -- and basically played his more celebrated OSU counterpart, Jared Sullinger, to a draw.  In hindsight, games like that probably built expectations for Basabe too high, but there's still a nice symmetry to Basabe playing a key role in securing Iowa's biggest win of the Fran Era against the team that also served as his coming-out party as a freshman.

Aaron White's from Ohio -- perhaps you've heard? -- and was somewhat famously not recruited by Ohio State, a fact which Ohio State fans never fail to remind him when he suits up for a game in Columbus.  Games like this one might make it a lot harder for them to chant about how much they didn't want him the next time he shows up in Columbus.  White is also, in many ways, the signature recruit of Fran's efforts so far; Marble might be the best player Iowa's had during Fran's tenure so far but he was also a legacy recruit who had already committed to Iowa when McCaffery took over, but White was an unheralded out-of-state kid with no ties to the program who's blossomed into a legitimate star at Iowa.

And Marble... well, Marble's just struggled against Ohio State during his Iowa career.  Like, a lot.

So yesterday was a nice way for him to kill two birds with one stone (or poisonous nut, perhaps?): not playing well against Ohio State and not leading Iowa to that elusive "big win."  Mission accomplished.

4) Did we get a glimpse of the future of Iowa's rotation?

Iowa's depth is a common talking point, here and elsewhere, and "Iowa goes 10 or 11 deep!" is kind of the new "Aaron White got locked in a gym" when it comes to TV announcer memes.  But after a fairly even distribution of minutes in the early part of the season, yesterday's game showed a different -- and intriguing -- breakdown of minutes.  Marble and White played the most minutes, at 33 and 32 minutes respectively.  Gesell and Uthoff each played 26 minutes and Basabe brought up the rear among Iowa's most-played guys, with 18 minutes yesterday.  (Oglesby was just behind him, at 17 minutes.)  Not surprisingly, those are also Iowa's best five players.

Woodbury and Olaseni played 14 and 13 minutes, respectively, with McCabe adding 16 minutes and Clemmons playing just 5 minutes.  Olaseni and Woodbury may have played a bit less because of foul trouble and certainly those two, along with McCabe and Clemmons, will have their moments in games this year.  (We might want to put a "See you in 2014-15!" tag! on Peter Jok, though.)  But it sure seems like Fran has identified his key guys (the Marble-Gesell-White-Uthoff-Basabe lineup was on the court a lot at the end of the game) and is going to run the team through them -- which definitely seems like the way to go.

5) A win like this has been a long time coming.

Iowa's last win over a top-5 opponent came in 2001, when Iowa laid a thumping on #2 Missouri, 83-65, in Columbia.  Ah, the heady days of the early [REDACTED] era... Of course, that "first win over a top-5 team" is somewhat arbitrary; Iowa beat 6th-ranked Purdue in the regular season finale of the 2010-11 season (which was arguably the best win of the Fran Era 'til yesterday)... is that really that much less impressive than beating a top-5 team?  Still, quibbles over numbers aside, it's not as if wins like this have been commonplace for Iowa hoops.  It's been a long, cold decade (with a few bright spots) in the basketball wildnerness for Hawkeye hoops, so wins this certainly feel very sweet.

They feel even sweeter when you recall exactly where the Iowa program was just four years ago, during Fran's first year in charge:

We've come a long way, baby.  Let's hope we're just getting started.

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