The Iowa Hawkeyes led the #20 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes 45-38 with just over seven minutes to play in the game on Wednesday night. The largest crowd of the year was on hand to see Todd Lickliter’s shorthanded bunch play more aggressively than their talent laden opponents.
If Michigan State is the most talented team in the Big Ten (and they are), Ohio State has the best player in the league in Evan Turner. But Turner was held in check most of the night, due to a combination of Iowa defense and foul trouble. Unfortuately, the Buckeyes are no worse than the third most talented team in the league and David Lighty was there to pick up his teammate with 20 points as the Buckeyes outscored the Hawkeyes 27-12 the rest of the way to win the game 65-57.
If time of possession was a stat kept in basketball, the Hawks led for the majority of the game. They were also the first team to 50, an odd stat that has been a harbinger for wins and losses during the Todd Lickliter era, so much so it might as well be a slogan on next year’s team poster; ‘First Team to 50′.
However, it doesn’t factor into the final score and the Hawkeyes walked off the court with yet another solid performance against a ranked team, but their 12th straight loss against a ranked team.
Eric May led the way for the Hawkeyes with 18 points, including five three-point shots and a couple of highlight reel blocks on Ohio State dunk attempts. The kid is a great athlete, there is no denying that. He is going to become one of my all time favorite Iowa players before he’s done.
The bad news for Iowa was that May was the only player to break into double figures; Jarryd Cole scored nine points, and most of those came in the first half. Aaron Fuller led the way on the glass with nine rebounds.
Iowa finished the game with 11 turnovers, which is acceptable. They made 20-55 field goal attempts (36.4%) and that included 10 of 31 from three-point range. So half of their made field goals were treys and 56% of their field goal attempts were from downtown, many of those coming as the shot clock was winding down and of the desperation variety.
Matt Gatens played a gutty 37 minutes on a sprained ankle, an injury incurred during the shoot around. He made two three-point shots, including one from West Branch in the first half. Cully Payne scored five points, but handed out six assists as he darted and dished in the lane.
Iowa had 34 rebounds on the night, 10 offensive. Ohio State had 41m 13 offensive. The Buckeyes shot just 4-16 from three and 24-57 from the floor overall. Howeve,r they scored 16 points off of Iowa turnovers whereas Iowa scored just five points off of only five Ohio State giveaways; there is your difference in the ballgame.
Turner, who is the leading candidate for the league’s MVP, wound up scoring 16 points, many of those coming late when Iowa got sloppy with the basketball.
FINAL ANALYSIS: I know some people hate the term ‘moral victory’. I am not fond of it on its face, because it means you actually lost the game. That being said, I am not going to be a curmudgeon and say there is no such thing, because this Iowa team is fighting incredibly hard. Yes, they fell to 2-6 in the Big Ten, which is 10th place, ahead of 0-8 Penn State. Sure, they have beaten Penn State and Indiana, two of the worst teams in the league.
But their last two losses have been by seven points at Top Ten Michigan State, and they were within three points with :17 seconds to play after being down by 19 points early in the second half, and they led the #20 ranked team for much of the game tonight before giving way to the late Ohio State rally; they have done this with eight scholarship players, something that seems to be a common refrain for a few teams in the state.
But this team, this Iowa Hawkeye team, isn’t giving in to the adversity; they are punching back. They are not quitting; they are fighting to the very end. They have been the ones believing in themselves when the majority of the fanbase had stopped believing.
Now, they are turning some skeptics back into people that are interested in watching them play. They had the biggest crowd of the year, even if it was thanks in part to some marketing promotions, and that crowd saw their team fight as hard as it could. That team gave them a lot to cheer about and for much of the game, something to place their hope in…at least, the degree of hope one places in athletics events.
The Hawks head on the road this weekend to play a Michigan team that is schizophrenic, to say the least. If Iowa can come out and bring the level of consistent intensity they have shown the past two and a half weeks, anything is possible…and it’s good to be able to believe in that again.