Likekele’s surprise day crucial as Bucks snap skid

COLUMBUS — In desperate need of a win, Ohio State rode a strong contribution from the most unlikely of sources to a 93-77 win over Iowa in Value City Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Isaac Likekele, who came into the game averaging 3.1 points per game, blew past his season-high points total, dropping 18 points for Ohio State and adding 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.

Brice Sensabaugh shook off a recent offensive slump to score a game-high 27 points as part of a fantastic shooting performance from the freshman. Sensabaugh connected on 10 of his 12 field goal attempts and went 4-5 from three.

As a team, Ohio State shot 56% from the field and 50% from three to score at least 90 points for the fifth time this season. With the win, a five-game losing streak that matched the longest of Chris Holtmann’s tenure at Ohio State is snapped.

Iowa was led by junior forward Kris Murray, who went 4-9 from three as part of a 22-point effort. Filip Rebraca chipped in with 15 points.

The game got off to a sloppy start for both teams as they combined for six turnovers in the first eight possessions of the contest before the two offenses finally began to settle in.

Following a basket by Sensabaugh to give Ohio State an early 2-0 lead, Iowa put together an 8-0 run to build an 8-2 lead. Sensabaugh’s three ended the Iowa run and cut the deficit to 8-5 heading into the first media timeout of the game.

Likekele’s three, his first of the season, evened the score minutes later, and the Ohio State defense then began to take control of the game.

Two blocks by Felix Okpara and steals by Tanner Holden and Justice Sueing led to a pair of Sean McNeil threes as part of a 12-0 run to give Ohio State a 25-15 lead.

Murray’s first three of the day ended the Ohio State run, and with under five minutes remaining in the half, Iowa cut the Ohio State lead to just two as part of a 9-2 run.

Both teams went scoreless over the final three minutes, sending Ohio State into halftime with a slim 35-33 lead.

Ohio State shot 47% from the field in the first half to take a narrow advantage into the break, including a 6-11 effort from three. Iowa shot just over 41% from the field and connected on four of nine three-point attempts to keep the game close.

Ahron Ulis’s jumper tied the game for Iowa to begin the second half, but another lengthy Ohio State run once again gave the Buckeyes some separation.

Sensabaugh’s three started the run just 30 seconds into the half, and Ohio State proceeded to outscore Iowa 16-4 over the next six minutes to build a 53-41 lead.

Multiple attempts by Iowa to chip away at the Ohio State lead were repelled as the advantage continued to hover around 10 points with the clock ticking past the midway point.

A pair of free throws from Tony Perkins again had Iowa within eight points with just over seven minutes to play, but Ohio State delivered the knockout blow over the next three minutes with a 7-0 run that put the game out of reach.

Sensabaugh’s three started the spurt, and consecutive baskets by Zed Key continued to build the lead as Ohio State began to pull away. Sueing’s free throw capped the run, giving Ohio State a 79-63 lead it wouldn’t relinquish down the stretch.

Following the win, Holtmann admitted the win was sorely needed but added the team will handle it the same way it’s handled the losses.

“It certainly feels really good, but it’s one game,” Holtmann said. “I think that’s the perspective; it’s one game. We’re focused on the same things we are after a loss, which is how we are playing and how we are improving.”

With the win, Ohio State improves to 11-8 overall and 3-5 in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes will return to action on Tuesday night when they travel to take on Illinois (13-6, 4-4).