IOWA CITY, Iowa – After a shoddy defensive outing against Michigan on Tuesday, the Hawkeyes had but one full day of practice to make adjustments and get ready for Ohio State.
One day wasn’t enough. The efforts of Michigan and Ohio State mirrored one another as they handed the Hawkeyes back-to-back losses.
(These two rival programs would be beside themselves if they knew I was comparing them to each other, but both came away with victories. Perhaps that’s reason enough to forgive me?)
Led by a double-double effort from Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State improved to 3-0 in Big Ten play and dropped Iowa to 0-4 with a 92-81 victory. It’s the first time since Fran McCaffery’s first season as head coach (2010-11) that the Hawkeyes have dropped their first four conference matches.
The Tuesday and Thursday games unfolded in very similar fashions. Much like Michigan, Ohio State used poor defensive spurts from Iowa to go on large runs.
In the first half, Ohio State went on a 19-4 run during a span of time when Iowa went without a field goal for over four and a half minutes. When shots didn’t fall for Iowa, the half court defense did little to keep it close.
Two key players were on the bench during that span. Iowa’s Tyler Cook and Ohio State’s C.J. Jackson each were sitting with two fouls. In Jackson’s absence, Andrew Dakich helped spark the Buckeye offense, dishing out five assists with no turnovers.
Dakich – a Michigan transfer of all things – led the Buckeyes to a 46-32 halftime lead.
Tuesday against Michigan, Iowa mustered up a few runs to inch closer to the Wolverines, but never got within one possession.
The same happened to start the second half.
Iowa scored the first nine points out of halftime thanks to buckets from Isaiah Moss and Luka Garza. Cutting the lead to five, the Hawkeyes got the crowd to engage.
Ohio State took no time settling the noise back down. The Buckeyes immediately went on a 10-0 run of their own, undoing the energetic stretch Iowa started the half with.
The Hawkeyes never got closer than eight points from the lead.
Defense hurt the Hawkeyes more than anything for the second straight game. Iowa allowed too many open shots, and Ohio State didn’t miss. The Buckeyes were 35-of-66 (53 percent) from the field and 7-of-25 (35 percent) from three-point range.
Michigan was 25-of-52 (48 percent) and 6-of-15 (40 percent) in those categories on Tuesday. (Full recap of Iowa-Michigan here.)
Bates-Diop led the Buckeyes with 27 points and 13 rebounds, most of which came in the second half. The junior forward has emerged as a conference player of the year candidate, and he showcased why on Thursday.
Four other Buckeyes shot the ball with precision on the night. They were Jae’Sean Tate (18), Kam Williams (13), C.J. Jackson (12; all after halftime), and Kaleb Wesson (10).
Cook was the catalyst again for Iowa, finishing with 21 points and nine rebounds. His absence was felt in the first half, with the Hawkeyes looking lost without him in the post. Even with Cook in the post, the offense has a tendency to stay stagnant. This slows, their rhythm, and leading to empty possessions.
Jordan Bohannon notched his fourth career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, the latter being a season-best. Bohannon struggled from three-point range again (1-of-5), but found his mid-range shot late in the game (5-of-8 FG).
The other double-digit scorers were Luka Garza (15) and Nicholas Baer (10). Garza was given the starting nod over Jack Nunge, and Baer looked to be at his most confident this season, making two of his four three-point attempts.
Having Cook, Bohannon, Garza, and Baer in double figures sounds good on the surface, but allowing 92 points takes away any opportunity for a win. For the first time this season, the Hawkeyes lost when eclipsing 80 points.
Players have acknowledged in the last three days that the defense has to step up, and Fran McCaffery insists the guys are capable of playing better than they have been.
Now at 0-4 in Big Ten play, the team needs to have a sense of urgency in fixing the defensive woes. If the team can manage the half court, limit turnovers, and get Cook, Garza, and Bohannon playing well at the same time, things could start to turn.
But it starts and ends with defense.
Iowa (9-8, 0-4) travels to College Park on Sunday to continue conference play against the Maryland Terrapins (13-4, 2-2). Game time is 7:00pm CT on FS1.