'Very poor performance defensively' sends Iowa men's basketball team to loss at Ohio State

Kennington Lloyd Smith III
Des Moines Register

COLUMBUS, Ohio − The Iowa men's basketball team entered the Schottenstein Center at Ohio State on Saturday expecting a desperate effort from the home team, and the Hawkeyes got exactly that.

The Buckeyes had lost their previous five games by a combined 19 points and were seeking a turnaround win. Iowa had won its previous four games and looked to continue the momentum.

A sloppy but tightly contested first half led to one team seizing control for a wire-to-wire second-half win, and it belonged to Ohio State. Led by a red-hot offensive effort, the Buckeyes ended Iowa's win streak by a 93-77 margin and in the process revealed a few areas where the Hawkeyes need work.

"We knew they were going to come out and play with a lot of intensity, and they did," forward Kris Murray said. "They made their open shots and played good basketball (on Saturday)."

Murray led Iowa with 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Filip Rebraca added 13 points and Ahron Ulis recorded 12 points, but Saturday was not a typical offensive day for Iowa.

The Hawkeyes (12-7, 4-4 Big Ten) pride themselves on ball security, but turnovers were an issue from the beginning against Ohio State (11-8, 3-5). Both teams combined for six turnovers in the first 90 seconds of play, and it persisted throughout the rest of the half. Iowa converted eight Ohio State turnovers into just four points.

The pace of play favored Iowa throughout but it wasn't translating into good offense. A 4-to-9 assists-to-turnover ratio was one of Iowa's worst first-half metrics of the season, and the offense couldn't find a rhythm, shooting just 41% from the floor.

"We turned it over a bunch," coach Fran McCaffery said. "We had an opportunity to (build a lead) because they were turning it over, was that really good defense by us or bad offense by them and vice versa? I don't know but we had some chances to get a bit of a lead but we didn't take advantage."

Still, Iowa trailed by only two points at the half, and that was with Kris Murray in foul trouble. A complete breakdown on defense doomed any second-half hopes.

Even during the win streak, defensive connectivity was a concern, and it was a big problem in the second half as Iowa wasn't able to string together stops. Ohio State started the second period with six consecutive made baskets, and halfway through the second half the Buckeyes were shooting 73% from the field. The Hawkeyes tried to keep pace offensively, shooting 48% as a team. However, 56 second-half points and 22 made baskets on 34 shot attempts by Ohio State paved the way for a double-digit win.

"We didn't come out (in the second half) with great defensive intensity," Murray said. "Shooters were open, they had open lanes to the basket. They only had 12 misses in the second half and that's unacceptable for us. We just have to get back (to work) and improve for the next game."

And unlike the first half when Iowa won the rebounding battle and played to its pace in transition, Ohio State was the more physical team down the stretch. The Buckeyes earned a +11 advantage on the boards in the second half, eight of those were on the offensive end. For the game, Ohio State scored 50 points in the paint.

"Very poor performance defensively and on the glass," McCaffery said. "They didn't miss many shots and when they did they got them back, that makes it really hard to win."

A disappointing result for Iowa will fester for several days. The team will have to wait until next Thursday for redemption as it travels to Michigan State for another Quad 1 level contest.

Iowa's Kris Murray, right, drives the lane against Ohio State's Justice Sueing during the first half of Saturday's game in Columbus.

"I feel like we're a better team than how we played today," McCaffery said. "Give credit to our opponent and move on to the next one."