Making a statement
Seemingly out of options, Iowa tried fouling Justin Ahrens.
The freshman forward, who had made seven three-pointers in Big Ten play all season, had just nailed his fourth in a row Tuesday night to push Ohio State’s lead to 17 points near the midpoint of the second half. Squaring up again from the right corner, Ahrens shot as Isaiah Moss knocked him to the court in front of the Buckeyes bench.
That didn’t even work. Ahrens went to the line after the foul and knocked down all three free throws with the student section at Value City Arena chanting his name, the star of a season-saving 90-70 rout of the No. 22 Hawkeyes.
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In need of a win to boost their NCAA Tournament resume, the Buckeyes (18-10, 8-9 Big Ten) knocked off their first ranked opponent of the season in runaway fashion and behind the hot shooting of Ahrens, who scored all but four of his 29 points after halftime.
Iowa (21-7, 10-7) had won four of its last five, often in dramatic fashion, but was powerless to stop the Buckeyes from their most prolific offensive performance of the Big Ten season.
“Tonight, I didn’t really see them out there,” Ahrens said of the Iowa defense. “When I got hot, it was going up. I haven’t really played all year, so they probably didn’t have the scouting report. Regardless, I’m going to do what I can to help this team win.”
With Ahrens’ shooting helping to open up the floor, the Buckeyes took care of the ball, found open guys and frequently got Kaleb Wesson involved. Held back by foul trouble in the first meeting between these teams, Wesson had three old-fashioned three-point plays and finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds as five Buckeyes finished in double figures.
Ahrens tied D’Angelo Russell’s Ohio State record for most three-pointers for a freshman, and it was tied for the sixth-most points ever for a freshman. His teammates mobbed Ahrens after the final horn, and his interview seat after the game was drenched with sweat when he stood up.
“If we couldn’t score the ball and make some shots, we felt like it could be a difficult night because they’re really good offensively,” coach Chris Holtmann said. “Obviously, a fun night for our guys. You love seeing your guys play with that level of joy and happiness.”
Against the Big Ten’s most porous defense, which was allowing 74.9 points per league game, Ohio State posted its second-highest scoring game of the season. Its 54 second-half points eclipsed totals for entire games against Michigan and Michigan State.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery and his son, Connor, a guard, both were assessed separate technical fouls within 58 seconds of each other late in the second half. After the game, multiple reporters overheard an expletive-filled tirade launched from the Iowa coach to the officials. Asked about the officiating after the game, Fran McCaffery said, “I can’t talk about that.”