IOWA CITY, Iowa — Andrew Dakich arrived at Ohio State this summer as both a proven name and an enigma.
Although famous both for his last name and for his four seasons as a walk-on at Michigan, he didn’t bring much in the way of experience in key moments to the Buckeyes.
On Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Dakich proved his mettle when his team needed it most.
As Ohio State weathered foul trouble that sent starting point guard C.J. Jackson and center Kaleb Wesson to the bench early in the first half, it was the graduate transfer who calmed the ship, settled the offense and played a significant role in a 92-81 win over Iowa.
In a career-high 26 minutes, Dakich had six assists (also a career high) and no turnovers while filling in for Jackson. He had a plus-12 rating for the game, the second-best individual plus-minus behind Keita Bates-Diop at plus-14. Dakich said it was the type of situation he came to Ohio State to handle.
“Most definitely,” he said. “C.J. was in foul trouble and he has been playing excellent for us and obviously he’s our guy. We play well off each other, but he got in foul trouble early and I was just trying to pick us up and get the guys in the right positions and execute and win the game.”
Jackson entered the game as Ohio State’s second-leading scorer at 13.5 points per game and its primary distributor with a team-high 69 assists. By halftime, Dakich had five assists to tie his career high as Jackson was limited to six minutes. Dakich also had two points on a crazy, up-and-under move he finished at the rim.
Entering the game, Dakich had only 14 career Big Ten assists.
“Guys were just making shots,” he said. “They were in that 2-3 zone and I was trying to see over the top of them at times.”
As he ceded the floor to Jackson after halftime, Dakich was still active on the sideline when Iowa opened with a run that threatened Ohio State’s 14-point lead. After one empty possession, he screamed at the Buckeyes on the court to huddle up and come together while walking back to set up their defense as the home crowd was roaring.
He consistently engaged with assistant coaches Terry Johnson and Ryan Pedon, offering up what he was seeing.
It’s all part of the package Dakich has brought the program.
“I don’t think anyone expected him to play as well as he has for us, not only in Big Ten play but for the entire year,” coach Chris Holtmann said. “He understands his role and he plays it at an elite level.
“And there are times where he does things that drive a coach crazy like anybody, but he’s not afraid. He plays with courage and he has given us such valuable minutes this year. I can’t say enough about how effective he has been for us.”
On a night like Thursday, there was plenty of evidence.