No. 4 Buckeyes start flat, fall to Iowa in third straight loss

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State Buckeyes guard Musa Jallow (2) and Iowa Hawkeyes guard Joe Wieskamp (10) chase a loose ball during Sunday's NCAA Division I Big Ten conference basketball game at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio, on February 28, 2021.

The lights dropped, and the pregame hype video got underway at Value City Arena on Sunday afternoon.

The voice of program legend Scoonie Penn boomed as clips highlighting the Ohio State men’s basketball program’s rivalry with Michigan played out on the scoreboard. It featured plenty of high-energy action, with highlights spanning across the decades.

The problem was that, moments later, the No. 4 Buckeyes tipped off against No. 9 Iowa. And just like the previous Sunday, when Ohio State and Michigan played one of the most exciting games of the year, the Buckeyes would lose at home.

That one, a 92-87 Michigan win, was close throughout. This one, a 73-57 Iowa win, was mostly controlled by the visitors.

"They clearly outplayed us, outperformed us, outcoached us," Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. "We’ve clearly got to get back to work and get some guys rested up and healed up."

Down 42-28 at the half, Ohio State (18-7, 12-7 Big Ten) came out roaring to open the second and threatened to make it interesting. Justice Sueing hit a three to open the half after the Buckeyes had gone 2 for 10 from deep during the first half, and it started what would be 14-2 run that pulled Ohio State within 44-42 only 3:11 into the second half.

It was the high-water mark. Luka Garza scored at the other end to start a 7-0 run, and Ohio State was never in striking distance again against the Hawkeyes (18-7, 12-6), who avenged a high-octane, 89-85 Ohio State win at Iowa City on February 4.

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After scoring those quick 14 points, the Buckeyes scored 15 points the rest of the way.

Ohio State has now lost three straight, its longest losing streak since it lost four straight from December 29, 2019-January 11, 2020. All three games were played during a span of eight days, the same pace as Iowa's last three games, and the Buckeyes will now have until Saturday before closing the regular season at home against Illinois.

"I just think in general we’ve not been good really on either end," Holtmann said of this stretch. "Offensively we were just really poor today. I thought defensively we had pockets of good play but overall not good enough."

Garza finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds after being held to 16 points in the prior matchup this season. E.J. Liddell led the Buckeyes with 15 points.

"We couldn’t do much (to stop Garza), honestly," Holtmann said. "We weren’t able to take away some of his strengths when we were playing him one on one. When we did we didn’t have enough attention to detail. They had a good attack with some of our double teams and they made some good shots.

Ohio State fell behind early when Joe Wieskamp swished a three-pointer to put the Hawkeyes ahead 5-2, and it would be a struggle from that point forward for the Buckeyes. After a CJ Walker deep jumper with 15:45 to play in the first half, Ohio State would go until 10:56 without a made field goal when E.J. Liddell scored on the left block. In the interim, Iowa scratched out a bigger lead, going from a 10-8 score on Walker’s jumper to 15-11 on Liddell’s basket.

The Hawkeyes would string together six straight empty possessions during the stretch, but Luka Garza hit a three to push the lead back to seven and they would score on eight straight possessions to push their lead to 12 points, 32-20, with 4:43 to play.

Duane Washington Jr. scored five straight for the Buckeyes to pull within seven, but Iowa again created distance before the half. Starting with a Garza jumper, the Hawkeyes closed the first half with a 10-3 run to take a 42-28 lead into the break. Washington missed a three with a few seconds left and the rebound was tipped back toward midcourt, where he grabbed it and fired a clear second after the horn sounded.

True to form, it went in after a half during which Ohio State went 2 for 10 from deep.

Both teams opened the day with injury concerns. Banged-up Iowa announced Friday that it had lost redshirt sophomore Jack Nunge to a season-ending meniscus injury as one of three injuries for the Hawkeyes suffered in Thursday’s loss at Michigan. Connor McCaffrey, who rolled an ankle in the game, was announced as available during the hours before the game. The same was true for CJ Fredrick, the redshirt sophomore from Cincinnati who was dealing with a leg injury. McCaffrey had played only 17 minutes against the Wolverines while Frederick was limited to nine.

The Buckeyes were waiting on the status of Kyle Young, who missed the Michigan State game with a concussion suffered during the Michigan game last Sunday. A few hours before the game, Holtmann confirmed that Young’s status would be evaluated once he went through pregame warmups.

In the first matchup between these teams this season, Young was one of three Buckeyes to score what was at the time a career-high 16 points while playing 32 minutes in an 89-85 win at Iowa City. Nunge had 18 off the bench.

Young would finish with three points and five rebounds in 25 minutes.

"Kyle was not his normal (self)," Holtmann said. "Some of that’s having a week off and not practicing at all. He gave it his best. I give him credit."