Buckeyes Boost Their Tournament Resume, Downing #22 Iowa
Behind a career high 29 points from Justin Ahrens, Ohio State got their signature win they’ve been searching for, dominating the final 24 minutes defeating the visiting Hawkeyes 90-70 to move to 18-10 and 8-9 in the Big Ten. Trailing late in the first half, Coach Chris Holtmann called timeout and the rest was history as Ohio State got to the majority of the loose balls, outrebounding the bigger Hawkeyes 36-26. 25 second half points from Justin Ahrens, including 6 three’s, led Ohio State to a big tournament resume boosting win. In addition to Ahrens’s big night, Kaleb Wesson added a double double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Keyshawn Woods chipped in 13 and Andre Wesson scored 11, along with Duane Washington adding 10 for the Buckeyes. C.J. Jackson returned from injury and chipped in with 6 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and most impressively, only 1 turnover against the heavy Hawkeye pressure.
Iowa jumped out to an early 7-0 lead as Ohio State started the game attempting 5 shots from deep and missing all 5. The Buckeyes changed their strategy as a result of the cold shooting from long range and began feeding Kaleb Wesson in the post and it paid dividends to the tune of a 9-0 run, 5 from Wesson, to take a 2 point lead with just over 14 minutes remaining. The Hawkeyes came back to even the score at 11 at the under 12 media timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Duane Washington, Jr. made his first appearance and he came ready to play and contribute in a big way. A triple from the corner gave Ohio State a 3-point lead and after an Iowa score, Andre Wesson hit a 22 foot three as the shot clock was expiring to give Ohio State a 4-point advantage. Washington struck again in transition with a reverse layup in traffic give Ohio State their largest lead of 6. A key moment at the 8:45 mark as Kaleb Wesson picked up his second foul on what was called a moving screen and Chris Holtmann was hot. Washington drilled another 3 moments later, answering a Hawkeye 3 giving the Buckeyes their 6-point lead again. Ohio State led by 4 at the under 8 timeout but Holtmann was still upset and was whistled for a technical and Iowa hit both free throws to draw within 2. Iowa regained the lead at the 5:10 mark and would extend the lead to 6 forcing Ohio State to call timeout with 3:44 remaining in the half as they struggled to solve the newly implemented Iowa zone defense. A pair of Kaleb Wesson free throws drew Ohio State to within 4 and on the ensuing Hawkeye possession, Justin Ahrens forced an Iowa turnover and as he raced in for a layup, he was fouled intentionally while scoring and buried both free throws to tie the score with 2:28 remaining in the half. C.J. Jackson buried a three from the short corner to give Ohio State a 3-point advantage that they would take to the locker room, ending the last 3:44 on an 11-2 run to take the lead 36-33 into the locker room. Duane Washington, Jr. led Ohio State in the half with 10 and Kaleb Wesson added 7. The Buckeyes did a nice job taking care of the basketball in the first half, only turning it over 5 times, but hit only 4 of 17 from long range yet out rebounded Iowa 20-15 in the half.
The Buckeyes found their stroke early in the second half, extending the lead to 9 thanks to triples on 3 consecutive possessions, 2 from Justin Ahrens and 1 off the fingertips of C.J. Jackson, forcing Iowa to call timeout with 15:23 remaining and Ohio State on top 51-42. After an empty possession each way, an Andre Wesson triple from the right point extended the Buckeye lead to 12 with 13:48 to play. Despite hot shooting from Iowa’s Joe Wieskamp who seemingly doesn’t miss from 3, the Buckeyes kept feeding Kaleb Wesson who completed a pair of old fashioned 3 point plays and Ohio State held a 10 point lead with 11 minutes to go in the ballgame. The Buckeyes continued to build thanks to Justin Ahrens who buried a three from each corner giving Ohio State a 17-point lead. After an Iowa bucket, Ahrens was fouled shooting a three and calmly buried all 3 free throws giving the Buckeyes an 18 point lead with 8:42 in the game. A 7-1 Iowa run cut the Buckeye advantage to 12 but another Ahrens triple from the top answered the run giving Ohio State a 15-point lead. Iowa scored the next 4, but after a foul call on Connor McCaffery, he was whistled for a technical and Ahrens buried both technical free throws and Keyshawn Woods made both of the free throws due to the foul and the Buckeyes led by 15. After an Iowa bucket, Iowa Coach Fran McCaffrey was t’d up and Ahrens made both of those to give Ohio State a 84-69 advantage with 3:10 left in the game and it was all but over.
To say that was a huge win is an understatement. The Buckeyes are sitting firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble and while most bracketologists have them in, their spot was precarious until this victory. They still need to finish the season strong, but they now have a win that they can point to when the committee is considering their resume. They also have found a shooter and that is an understatement. Justin Ahrens won’t score 29 every night, obviously, but he is now a threat on the perimeter that can open things up inside for Kaleb Wesson to work and he clearly benefited tonight, not only in the scoring column, but when defenses collapse, he can kick it out to the shooters outside to do their damage. While this is a big win, they will have to refocus over the next several days before hitting the road for a pair of games at Purdue and Northwestern before finishing the regular season at home with Wisconsin.
The Buckeyes will hit the road on Saturday to West Lafayette, Indiana to face 14th ranked Purdue and another opportunity at a signature win. Tip time for that one scheduled for 2 PM airing on ESPN.