Ohio State Downs Iowa, Advances to Big Ten Quarters

In a back and forth game that saw 8 ties and 18 lead changes, Ohio State gutted out a tough 73-69 win to advance to the Big Ten Quarterfinals and send the Hawkeyes home to await their NCAA fate. The Buckeyes utilized exceptional half court defense for 40 minutes and despite struggling at times with Iowa’s full court pressure, they were able to respond to any and all adversity to come away with their 4th win in 5 games and keep their season alive.  A tremendous team effort was led by 17 from Bruce Thornton, 16 from Brice Sensabaugh, 14 from Justice Sueing and 13 from Sean McNeil. In addition, Roddy Gayle chipped in 9, including 7 straight during a critical 2 ½ minute stretch late in the game. Iowa was led by Filip Rebraca’s 20, Kris Murray’s 17 and Tony Perkins added 16.

The Buckeyes opened the scoring on their first possession as Bruce Thornton buried a pull up jumper along the right baseline. Iowa answered, out scoring the Buckeyes 7-2 over the next 3 minutes to take a 7-4 lead into the first media timeout. Iowa extended the lead out of the timeout, but back to back mid paint jumpers by Thornton and Brice Sensabaugh trimmed the deficit to 1. After an Iowa deuce, Sensabaugh got to the rim with a hesitation dribble and scored high off the window. A defensive stop and a Sensabaugh fade in the middle of the lane put Ohio State on top. Iowa answered on their next possession, but Justice Sueing tipped in his own miss to regain the lead for Ohio State and at the under 12 media timeout, Ohio State led 14-13. Ohio State played solid defense, but stagnant and lackluster offense as the game went scoreless over the next 2 minutes prompting Chris Holtmann to call timeout. Sean McNeil’s two free throws extended the lead, but Iowa answered with a bucket at the rim. Thornton got to the rim with a dribble drive and scored off the glass and after a defensive stop, McNeil buried a three from the left corner. Iowa responded, scoring the next five and at the under 8 media timeout and 5:48 left in the first half, Ohio State held a 21-20 lead. Out of the timeout, Sensabaugh came up with a steal at the top and went the other way for a dunk. Back came the Hawkeyes, scoring the next 4 to regain the lead and at the final media timeout, Iowa was back in front 24-23. On the first possession out of the timeout, Sueing dropped in a spinning drive mid lane to regain the lead. The lead was short lived, however as Iowa scored quickly the other way. The lead changed hands again when Thornton buried a three from the right point. An Iowa deuce tied the game before Ice Likekele split a pair of free throws and the half came to an end with Ohio State taking a 29-28 lead into the locker room. The Buckeyes shot it at a 44% clip, including 2 of 9 from long range, while Iowa knocked down 50% of their attempts, making 2 of 10 from three. Despite not playing their best offensively, the Buckeye defense came to play forcing Iowa into almost everything along the perimeter being contested, keying the small halftime lead. Bruce Thornton led Ohio State with 9, while Brice Sensabaugh scored 8 to lead Ohio State. Filip Rebraca scored 10 to lead Iowa in the first 20 minutes.

Iowa regained the lead with a triple to open the second half scoring, but a Sensabaugh baseline jumper tied the game. A pair of Iowa free throws broke the tie and one out of two free throws later, Iowa led by 3. A tip in by Felix Okpara trimmed the led to 1 and with Ohio State looking disheveled by Iowa’s pressure, Chris Holtmann took a timeout at the 16:05 mark and Iowa clinging to a 34-33 lead. An Iowa old-fashioned three point play extended the Hawkeye lead to 4, but McNeil’s triple from the left corner cut the lead to 1. After an Iowa hoop, the Buckeyes answered when Thornton hit a leaner in the paint and after a McNeil pull up, Ohio State went back in front. Iowa regained the lead with an old-fashioned three point play, but Ohio State re-tied it when Sensabaugh hit a baseline jumper. Ohio State went right back in front when Sensabaugh grabbed a rebound and scored off the window. A triple by Iowa put the Hawks in front, but back and forth we went as Thornton dropped in a teardrop. A quick Iowa bucket was answered again by Thornton, hitting a foul line jumper and Chris Holtmann took a quick timeout with 11:13 to play and Ohio State leading 48-47. Iowa went back in front, scoring off a long offensive rebound and after a Buckeye miss, Iowa scored again to go up 3. Ohio State answered as McNeil drilled a right corner three to tie it. Iowa broke the tie with a pair of free throws and after a turnover against the backcourt pressure, an Iowa dunk extended the Hawkeye lead to 4. A Sueing triple cut the lead to 1, but an Iowa bucket answered and at the under 8 media timeout with 7:13 left in regulation, Iowa led 57-54. Out of the timeout, Gene Brown banged down one of two free throws to trim the Buckeye deficit to a pair. After an Iowa turnover, the Buckeyes tied it thanks to a second chance opportunity on a man sized rebound by Okpara which led to a Roddy Gayle score off the bounce. Iowa regained the lead with a pair of free throws but a Sensabaugh banker in the lane tied the game again. The see-saw game went back and forth. After an Iowa score, Gayle banked in another short jumper in the lane to tie it. The Buckeyes broke the tie when Gayle drilled a three from the right point and Iowa took a timeout and with 3:17 to play, the Buckeyes led 64-61. Out of the timeout, an iso on the left side led to a bucket at the rim to trim the lead to 1. Sueing answered in a big way, drilling a three from the left wing to extend the lead to 4. A pair of free throws by Iowa cut the lead to 2 with 1:47 left in the game. Ohio State got the ball into the front court and Chris Holtmann, understanding the importance of the current possession, called his final timeout with 1:34 left in regulation and Ohio State leading 67-65. Out of the timeout, Thornton got to the rim off the bounce and scored off the glass to extend the lead. An Iowa bucket with a minute to go cut the lead to 2 and Gayle, attacking the rim, was fouled, sending him to the stripe. Gayle banged in both to extend the lead with 33 seconds to play. A pair of Iowa freebies dropped to cut the lead to 2 with 20 seconds remaining. A scramble on the ensuing in bounds play and in the ruckus, the ball went out of bounds off of Iowa with 10 seconds on the clock. On the inbounds pass in the forecourt, Sueing was fouled and Justice splashed down both to seal the win. 

WHAT. AN. EFFORT. This team is growing up before our eyes. The freshmen are figuring it out, the veterans are continuing to fight and claw and it has resulted in wins in of 4 of their last 5, they are learning how to win and they are not only winning, they are fighting through adversity and beating good basketball teams. The freshmen were clearly critical in this game, but the play of the Senior, Justice Sueing cannot go unnoticed. His triple late along with his hustle to keep the final possession alive,  and the pair of free throws that sealed it, were huge to enable Ohio State to get this win. Sueing also did an absolutely outstanding job on Kris Murray, making him really work for anything he got, utilizing his body and quickness to frustrate him all night long. It was a total team effort but there were outstanding individual performances that got this win accomplished. The Buckeyes are a completely different team in the last two weeks and will certainly give Michigan State all they can handle tomorrow, but regardless of that outcome, Ohio State has set a foundation to build on whether they continue on this season or head into the summer with a lot of juice for a bright future. 

The Buckeyes advance to play 4th seeded Michigan State tomorrow afternoon. Tip time is scheduled for right around 2:30 PM EDT and airing on BTN.

-Jason Harris

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