COLUMBUS — No. 18 Ohio State couldn’t stay out of its own way on Saturday afternoon, turning in a mistake-riddled performance that ended in a 75-62 defeat to the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The loss snapped an 11-game home winning steak for Ohio State while also dropping them two games behind Purdue and Illinois atop the Big Ten standings.
Iowa All-American candidate Keegan Murray scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the first half, and the Hawkeyes dominated the offensive glass all afternoon to the tune of 20 offensive rebounds and 18 second-chance points to pull away from Ohio State.
Malaki Branham led Ohio State with 22 points and eight rebounds, and Kyle Young added 10 points and five rebounds. E.J. Liddell, despite facing considerable attention from the Iowa defense, finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Branham scored the first seven points of the game for Ohio State to grab an early 7-5 lead over Iowa three minutes into the game. The lead continued to grow in the early stages as a pair of converted three-point plays by Young contributed to a 14-5 Ohio State run that opened up a 21-10 advantage.
Liddell’s uncontested dunk capped the Ohio State run, forcing Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery to call a timeout as a loud crowd inside Value City Arena roared in approval. Just seven minutes into the game, Ohio State appeared ready to cruise as they threatened to blow the game wide open, but Murray and Iowa responded quickly out of the timeout.
Murray’s first three-pointer of the game cut the Ohio State lead to 21-13, and he was just starting to heat up as he began to show why he’s in the conversation for the Big Ten Player of the Year award.
Following a missed Ohio State layup, Murray threw down a two-handed slam while drawing a foul to quiet the Value City Arena crowd. Murray’s free throw was good, bringing Iowa to within five points at 21-16 with 12:32 remaining in the first half.
Murray continued his assault on the Ohio State lead, scoring on the next two Iowa possessions to bring the Hawkeyes to within a point as the first half neared its midway mark. Murray’s individual 10-0 run gave him 15 points in just 10 minutes of action as Iowa drew closer to erasing the early deficit.
Zed Key’s three-point play ended the Iowa scoring run and temporarily increased Ohio State’s lead to 24-20, but Iowa continued to hang around while finally getting contributions from sources other than Murray.
Patrick McCaffery’s jumper with 3:37 remaining in the half brought Iowa back to within a point, and the Hawkeyes took their first lead since the 17-minute mark on a pair of free throws from Ahron Ulis with 2:31 remaining.
Jordan Bohannon’s three gave Iowa a 39-36 lead just before halftime, but a pair of Liddell free throws with just a second left sent Ohio State into the break trailing by just a point.
Ohio State shot 52% in the first period but turned the ball over seven times, and combined with Iowa’s 14 offensive rebounds, left a lot to be desired heading into the final period.
Much like he did in the first half, Branham opened up the final 20 minutes on a tear, scoring six of the first seven Ohio State points to grab a 45-41 lead three minutes into the second half.
Despite the strong Ohio State start, the avoidable mistakes continued to mount as Iowa quickly recaptured the lead and all momentum in the game by capitalizing time and time again on a seemingly neverending series of errors.
Bohannon’s three-pointer tied the game at 45-45 with 16:50 remaining, and a pair of free throws from McCaffery two minutes later gave Iowa a lead it would never relinquish.
Baskets by Kris Murray and Bohannon built the Iowa lead to seven points as Ohio State continued to struggle on the offensive end. With Iowa choosing to swarm Liddell with multiple defenders every time he touched the ball, the Ohio State offense continuously bogged down, and quality shot attempts become increasingly more difficult to find.
Following a Liddell turnover, Kris Murray’s transition layup increased Iowa’s lead to nine points, and his fast-break dunk at the 6:40 mark increased the advantage to its largest margin of the afternoon at 66-53.
Jamari Wheeler’s layup with 5:21 to play, just the third field goal in 12 minutes for Ohio State, stopped the bleeding and cut the Iowa lead to 66-55. With time running out on any comeback bid by Ohio State, Liddell’s three-pointer cut the Iowa lead to 68-62 and temporarily sent a jolt through the arena as Buckeye fans awoke from their daze.
The energy shown throughout the building was short-lived, however, as Ohio State still couldn’t escape the problems that plagued them all afternoon.
On the ensuing possession, Kris Murray’s three was off the mark, but another Iowa offensive rebound kept the possession alive as the clock ticked towards the two-minute mark. A missed layup by Ulis still couldn’t be corralled by Ohio State, and a second offensive rebound by Iowa sent a collective groan throughout the area has Iowa was able to melt away even more clock.
Conor McCaffery finally took advantage of the multiple opportunities, connecting on his first and only shot attempt of the game to deliver a dagger of a three-pointer to finish off a nightmare possession for Ohio State. Iowa’s lead was back up to nine, and Ohio State wouldn’t score again as the final two minutes played out unceremoniously.
Following the game, Young credited Iowa’s collective effort on both ends while also lamenting the lack of effort at times from himself and his teammates.
“I think it was a little bit of both, to be honest,” Young said. “They played defense really well. We weren’t getting to our spots where we needed to offensively. They came out read offensively. But I think for us, too, it was a little lack of just doing what we needed to do, getting 50-50 balls and effort stuff. I think we did some good things well in spurts, but when we need it the most, it wasn’t always there.”
Liddell said of the difference in efforts, “(Iowa) just came out here and competed today. I felt like we competed at times rather than the whole 40 minutes, and I felt like they came out here and played 40 minutes harder. That’s an area we have to get better in, just putting together (a complete effort) and maximizing every second that we’re out there as a team.”
Ohio State (16-7, 9-5) returns to action on Monday when they host the Indiana Hoosiers in Value City Arena. Tip-off for the game is set for 7 p.m.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.