The collapse continues.
Iowa dropped a heartbreaker to Ohio State at Value City Arena, 68-64, giving the Indiana Hoosiers at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title and severely harming the Hawkeyes' hopes to earn a share. Iowa falls to 20-8 (11-5) on the season, and the slide down the Top 25 come Monday is going to be brutal.
Mike Gesell carried the Hawkeyes for most of the game, and it looked like his efforts (16 points, five assists) would be enough to carry the day. But after Iowa took a 62-56 lead on Gesell's layup with four minutes left, OSU roared ahead with 10 straight points to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Iowa had a shot to tie in the last seconds, but Gesell's drive to the rim was swatted by Keita Bates-Diop, who also led all scorers with 19 points. And that was that.
Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok had 16 points and 12, respectively, but the two had their second straight tough game from deep, combining to go just 2-for-9 from behind the arc. If they're not controlling Iowa's scoring, they generally don't have much help, and things go south rather reliably. More on Jok's 12-point game in a bit.
Let's be honest here: the game was a mess from the get-go, on both sides of the floor. Iowa and OSU combined for six turnovers before the first media timeout and kept up the sloppy play throughout the game, finishing with 30 combined turnovers. Making matters worse was a borderline bizarre performance from the officials, who called fouls seemingly at random, and let Gesell and Uthoff get hammered on the interior without blowing a whistle. That's not to suggest that the referees were calling a slanted game, mind you; OSU fans had plenty of justifiable opportunities to boo the zebras as well, including a comically bungled two/three review that cost the Buckeyes a point on a late go-ahead basket. But when you've got guys driving to the rim and drawing contact, that's what you want, right? And when the officials don't do their part, how are you supposed to respond? Serious question.
Jok was a non-factor for a heavy portion of the game, but while some of that was due to foul trouble, let's remember that players don't have to sit until their fifth foul; the benchings before them, while accomplishing the same effect, are entirely voluntary on the coaches' part. So when Peter Jok sits for 13 of the first 29 minutes—and we're talking about a guy who commits 3.3 fouls per 40 minutes on the season—that's not "foul trouble" per se, it's "Fran McCaffery's response to foul trouble." And for a guy who's so important to Iowa's offense, especially as the role players fade late in the year, it's okay to wonder if the solution might be worse than the problem.
Dom Uhl was fine off the bench, so that was one nice surprise, and it's worth noting that Christian Williams came off the bench before Brady Ellingson, who was a no-show on the court on Sunday. Williams didn't do much, and perhaps it was a matter of McCaffery trying to get an extra bit of size against OSU's rather tall starting five, but there you go.
We're probably at the point now that Iowa should count on beating Indiana if it still wants an NCAA tourney destination in Des Moines, by the way. Anyone see that coming a couple weeks ago?