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Ohio State 90, Iowa 70: The Justin Ahrens Show

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The freshman scored a career high in points in his second career start against a floundering Iowa squad

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

A career-high 29 point performance from Ohio State freshman Justin Ahrens in his second career start propelled the Buckeyes past a flailing Hawkeyes team in a 90-70 win Tuesday night in Columbus.

The Buckeyes came into this matchup having lost three of their last four matchups, and they played like a team in desperate need of a win from start to finish. The Buckeyes managed to make 22-24 shots from the charity stripe, while the Hawkeyes, who excel in making free throws, barely got to the line.

In addition to Ahrens, who, it should be noted, came into the game averaging 2.1 points per game, the Wesson brothers were crucial for the Buckeyes from the beginning. Kaleb poured in 18 points and 10 rebounds while his brother Andre finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. For Iowa, Joe Wieskamp and Maishe Dailey had the most notable performances. Wieskamp finished with 17, on 5-6 shooting from deep, and Dailey was aggressive on defense and finished with 8 points on 3-4 shooting.

Iowa’s stars, however, struggled. Tyler Cook scored 12 quiet points and grabbed 10 rebounds, but felt dominated by K. Wesson. Luka Garza, Isaiah Moss, and Jordan Bohannon were similarly quiet. Bohannon in particular finished 0-5 from deep, and the Hawkeyes just aren’t going to win many games when he isn’t shooting well.

Game recap below.

Despite the Hawkeyes jumping out to an early 7-0 lead, K. Wesson’s strong presence in the paint got the Buckeyes back into the game early. He had five of the team’s first seven points to get to a 7-7 tie with 15:30 left in the half, taking advantage of Luka Garza and Tyler Cook beneath the basket.

But Wesson and his brother took advantage of the defensive mismatches with Fran’s smaller lineup of McCaffery, Bohannon, Baer, Kriener and Garza. From beyond the arc and underneath the basket, and with some bad Iowa turnovers, the Buckeyes went on an 8-0 run to jump out to a 19-13 lead. The Hawkeyes took advantage of K. Wesson foul trouble and climbed back in the game, taking a 26-25 lead thanks to two impressive drives in the lane from Maishe Dailey.

From there, Iowa went on a run of their own, jumping out to a 31-25 lead, but the Buckeyes wouldn’t go away, responding with a 6-0 run of their own and tied the game at 31 with under two minutes left in the half. The Hawkeyes had their chance to take a lead back into halftime, but Bohannon’s first half struggles continued. He had an open court in front of him off a turnover and missed a deep three, and the Buckeyes took advantage by scoring a three of their own on the other end. On the ensuing Iowa possession, Bohannon was trapped and turned the ball over again, entering the half down 36-33.

The beginning of the second half was much of the same for the Hawkeyes. It featured bad turnovers and a dominating performance from K. Wesson. But the Buckeyes started heating up from deep thanks to Justin Ahrens, and suddenly the Buckeyes had a 51-42 lead with just over 15 minutes left in the game. Dailey, an Ohio native, did all he could to keep the Hawkeyes in the game with one of his best performances of the season, but the hot shooting from deep continued for the Buckeyes and the lead continued to grow.

A pair of free throws from Dailey and two three-pointers from Wieksamp kept the Hawkeyes in the game, but after each Wieskamp three, K. Wesson responded with an and-1 of his own, keeping the Buckeye lead in double-digits. From there, Ahrens’ onslaught from deep continued, and the Buckeyes jumped out to a 71-54 lead that ended up being the dagger.

The rest of the game was predictable from there. More Iowa turnovers, technical fouls from both McCafferys (yes, you read that right!), questionable lineups, and disappointing performances from Iowa’s starts, most notably Bohannon and Cook.

To me, this game is the culmination of Iowa’s recent slide. Yes, the team won three of its last five games, which is very respectable, but take a look back. Do any of those wins really inspire you?

I’m not quite ready to call this season a 2014-15 collapse yet by any means, but man, this team continues to trend downward.

February and March are when the truly good teams start to play their best basketball of the year. For the Iowa Hawkeyes, it has been the complete opposite. On Saturday, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are coming to Iowa City looking for blood after Wieskamp’s heroics a few weeks ago.

All they’ll need to do is watch tape Iowa’s from tonight against Ohio State to know how to beat the Hawkeyes at their own game.