IOWA CITY, Iowa — There were any number of words Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann could have used.
Not even six minutes into Thursday night’s game at Carver Hawkeye Arena, 20th-ranked Iowa had jumped on the No. 25 Buckeyes with an 18-3 run to open the game. It was a performance that came against an offensive-minded team that was particularly dangerous at home, led by national player of the year candidate Luka Garza.
Trying to describe what Ohio State lacked, Holtmann settled on "bite." Iowa brought it from the opening tip, and by the time the Buckeyes found theirs, the Hawkeyes had already chomped down with an unshakable grip. Ohio State never led, fell behind by 19 on two occasions and lost 85-76 in front of 14,001 fans.
Five days removed from posting their best defensive efficiency numbers in a Big Ten game in more than two years, the Buckeyes (17-9, 7-8 Big Ten) finished with their second-worst mark of the season and their second-most points allowed.
"We just didn’t have enough (to win)," Holtmann said. "I don’t think you’re going to win on the road in this league, or at home for that matter, with a lack of bite that we had in the first five minutes. Deflections. Physicality defensively. Physicality into the ball. All of that. We didn’t have enough of that kind of activity."
The best they could do was make it interesting, and at one point they had a chance to put a scare into a boisterous crowd.
Actually, they had four such chances. After pulling within 51-42 on a CJ Walker three-pointer with 17:13 to play, the Buckeyes had four straight possessions with a chance to cut into the lead.
They came up empty on each of them, missing four shots and committing three turnovers. Bakari Evelyn broke Iowa’s dry spell with a three-pointer to give the Hawkeyes (19-9, 10-6) a 12-point lead with 14:44 to play, and it proved too much — although a flurry of late baskets got the Buckeyes within seven.
"They’re a really good team," Walker said. "We know they haven’t lost here since November, so we knew what they were capable of doing. They made shots early. They just did what they usually do."
Freshman E.J. Liddell led the Buckeyes, setting career highs with 17 points and eight rebounds off the bench. He scored six of Ohio State’s eight points during a first-half spurt, a stretch that included a fadeaway jumper over Garza. Liddell had entered the game averaging 4.9 points in Big Ten play.
"I was just trying to play as hard as I can so we could win, but Iowa’s a really good team," Liddell said. "They competed very well. We didn’t give them enough today and enough effort to win that game."
Duane Washington Jr. added 15 points, scoring all of them in a five-minute stretch late in the second half. Garza led all scorers with 24.