With 3:40 to go, staring down the barrel of a 4-point deficit with Joe Wieskamp set for a one-and-one opportunity at the line, it could have gone a number of different directions.
Safe to say, it went just about the worst way it could have gone for the #8 Iowa Hawkeyes (13-5, 7-4) as the #7 Ohio State Buckeyes (15-4, 9-4) revved the gas and did what they do: win on the road, 89-85.
Wieskamp went one of two before yielding a corner three to Kyle Young. Jack Nunge got the line and sinked a couple. Then Iowa yielded a third Justin Ahrens three in less than two minutes.
88-81 as the teams traded empty possessions until 1:03 was shown on the clock.
There’s no sense mincing words: Fran McCaffery waited 39 minutes to throw out any lineup resembling defensive fortitude. He also waited that long to call a timeout, despite Ohio State turning an 11-point deficit into a one-point lead over the course of four minutes in the middle of the second half.
In what could have been a convincing or even less-anxiety inducing win, it became another notch on the Buckeyes’ bed post of ranked road wins.
Iowa had balanced scoring because they’re a helluva offense. Jordan Bohannon and Jack Nunge led the way with 18 a piece with Joe Wieskamp scoring 17 and Luka Garza tying his season-low at 16. They shot 44% from three, 44% from the field, 10/20 on layups, and 11/17 from the free throw line.
Incredible they can have that efficient of an offense with as many easy shots as they miss. Which is where defense comes into play.
Bohannon’s 18 points were a blessing and curse. With him so hot, it allowed Fran to hold off on bringing Tony Perkins in. Joe Toussaint’s presence wasn’t as required (7 minutes & 0 points) because Bohannon was doing what Bohannon was doing - making shots.
36 minutes’ worth, though? That seems steep for Bohannon, and it showed when Iowa was stressed defensively down the stretch.
Credit’s deserved for Ohio State, who capitalized on Iowa’s lackluster zone. It was actually their best shooters (Duane Washington and Ahrens) who shot the worst, combining for 6/17 from three. The rest of their lineup were 8/15 as Ohio State ran an offense as old as the zone defense: got the ball to E.J. Liddell in the high post to spark ball movement if a wide open elbow jumper wasn’t there. His three assists tied a season-high, to go along with 16 points.
So yeah, Iowa faced another team who could score with them. It’s fair to wonder how many of them exist in college basketball, despite the Hawkeyes remaining atop KenPom’s adjusted offense column. Silly me for thinking it could be different with an even more elite offense.
But what was the point of developing the perimeter depth over the last couple games if it wasn’t going to be used to paper over the glaring issues which reside there with or without CJ Fredrick? Iowa is normally fine from a defensive scouting perspective - OSU’s shooters performing poorly speak to that - but teams have that zone-buster play teed up if simple high post action gets a little too boring. There has to be a counter to that other than waiting for the opponent to stop making shots.
Retrospect is fun, though.
Fran McCaffery: "In retrospect" feels he should have played Joe Toussaint and Tony Perkins some more.— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) February 5, 2021
- Ohio State had a player, Meechie Johnson, Jr, who was in high school two months ago. He made two of three from deep.
- The shine isn’t wearing off of Keegan Murray - he still does all the little things right and had a game-high four offensive rebounds - but his offense has left the building when he isn’t dunking it, which to be fair is still a lot.
- Pat McCaffery has played well of late, scoring 8 points.
- Free throws...ugh.
- Iowa’s marquee win is... a bad North Carolina team? Purdue early? On the road at Rutgers?