The Iowa Hawkeyes’ hot streak ended at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes, 93-77, Saturday afternoon in Columbus. The loss puts Iowa at 12-7 on the season and 4-4 in Big Ten play.
It was a much needed win for the Buckeyes, who snap a 5-game losing streak, but the loss brings to a close a stretch of four games where we saw the Hawkeyes play some of their best basketball of the season.
That team didn’t travel to Columbus, however. The worst version of the Hawkeyes returned instead, featuring rushed shots on offense, bad turnovers horrid defense, and a huge absence from Tony Perkins.
Surprising absolutely no one, Kris Murray led the way for the Hawkeyes, logging a cool 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. He didn’t receive much help, though. Only two other Hawkeyes - Filip Rebraca and Aron Uhlis (surprising!) were in double figures, tallying 15 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists and 12 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists, respectively. Tony Perkins added an extremely quiet 8 points and 6 rebounds, and Payton Sandfort came crashing back down to earth, scoring 6 points on 2-4 shooting from deep and just 2-7 overall. Josh Dix also added 6 points off the bench.
Things started off slowly on both ends of the court, as neither team could make a basket for nearly 2 minutes of gamplay. Ohio State busted things open first, but Connor McCaffery responded with a 3-pointer for Iowa to take an early 3-2 lead, and Iowa took off from there, thanks to — who else? — Kris Murray.
The younger Murray twin went on his own 5-0 run on the offensive end, and put in huge efforts on the boards as well. Iowa’s offense stalled for a bit after, letting Ohio State cut into the lead. The teams battled from there, with the Buckeyes tying things up at 15 with just under 12 minutes to go in the half. OSU went on a run from there as part of a 10-0 scoring run, capped off with a vicious block on Rebraca.
The Buckeye run sent Fran searching down the bench, giving Riley Mulvey early playing time, which he used to perform admirably. Murray was able to stop the bleeding to end the scoring drought, but Ohio State responded with another 3-pointer. Thankfully, Josh Dix and Mulvey stepped up on the scoring, cutting the Bucky lead down to 28-22.
Iowa fought against the Buckeye lead, taking advantage of turnovers to cut the lead down to 33-31 with under five minutes in the half as Murray continued his strong performance. Every time it looked like the Hawkeyes might tie or take the lead, they shot themselves in the foot by rushing into bad jumpers or turning the ball over. Thankfully, Ohio State couldn’t take full advantage of multiple opportunities, and Iowa entered the half only trailing 2, 37-35.
Iowa tied things up immediately to start the second half, but Ohio State responded immediately with a 3-pointer. Anytime Iowa scored, the Buckeyes had exactly the response to make things harder for the black and gold. Quickly, the Buckeye lead was up to 10 with only 4 minutes passing, as Iowa continued to settle for rushed shots early in the shot clock.
Defensively, Iowa let Ohio State get pretty much any shot they wanted, either in the lane or from the field, sagging off defenders and leaving the space beneath the basket wide open for dunks. To Iowa’s credit, they didn’t let Ohio State’s lead get out of control, but it didn’t matter how many 3’s Iowa could hit on the other end.
Ohio State always had the response.
The rest of the game continued the same way until the clock hit zero: Iowa would cut into the Buckeye lead, but a defensive lapse on the other end of the court would take OSU’s lead right back to double-digits, with Buckeyes leading by as many as 15 at one point. Thus ended a frustrating afternoon for the Hawkeyes, a reality check after becoming one of the hottest teams in the conference. At the end of the day, it’s not a bad loss by any stretch, but it’s not the result a hot team wants, especially when the NCAA Tournament seems likely, but maybe not cemented (sure, I said they were cemented last weekend but maybe I was getting ahead of myself).
Up next? Another tough road match against another team not playing to its potential in the Michigan State Spartans. It will be another tough challenge for the Hawkeyes, who would surely love to take this road stretch 1-1.
If there’s one thing we can say for certain about this Iowa team, it’s that things will never be easy…or consistent. And I guess that’s just the way things will be for the rest of the season.