Everything seemed hunky dory for No. 14 Ohio State as the Buckeyes led visiting Iowa by 24 early in the second half Tuesday night at Value City Arena.
Aaron White led Iowa in scoring in his first game as a Hawkeye in his home state.
But the plucky Hawkeyes pounded the boards and unleashed a tough fullcourt trapping defense that lulled the error prone Buckeyes asleep and helped Iowa whittle the lead down to four.
In the end, though, Ohio State bounced back from Saturday’s loss at Michigan State by holding on for a 72-63 win over Iowa before 16,040 at VCA.
“The first 20 minutes of the game, we were effective,” said OSU coach Thad Matta. “Then some odd things happened. In the league we are in right now, we take wins and celebrate them. But we need to look at how to better ourselves.
“We are searcing for consistency. I’ll take consistency over greatness.”
The Buckeyes (14-4, 4-2) held the Hawkeyes (13-6, 2-4) to 35.5 percent shooting, including just 25 percent in the first half.
Deshaun Thomas led OSU with 16 points and seven rebounds. He was 6 of 11 from the floor and 2 of 2 at the foul line.
Aaron Craft added 12 points, five assists and four steals, although he also had five turnovers. Repeatedly fouled down the stretch, Craft hit 8 of 10 free throws to help the Buckeyes hold on.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 12 points and six rebounds for OSU, while Evan Ravenel had 11 points and six rebounds off the bench.
“The game was pretty physical and they put pressure on us,” Ravenel said. “We are always going to be happy to get the win but not about how we got the win.”
Iowa came into the game off Saturday’s win over Wisconsin. Despite falling down by as many as 24 early in the second half, the Hawkeyes never quit. They got as close as four in the final two minutes. They used a 40-34 advantage on the boards – not to mention that fullcourt trap as OSU committed 14 second-half turnovers -- to stay in it.
“We dug in defensively,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “Once we started going with the big lineup, that slowed the game down a little bit and we started to chip away at the score.”
Aaron White led Iowa with 13 points and six rebounds, while Anthony Clemmons added nine. It was a rough night for Iowa wing Roy Devyn Marble, who was 2 of 11 from the floor and finished with eight points.
Eric May and Zach McCabe also had eight points for Iowa, while Melsahn Basabe had seven points and 10 rebounds.
Ohio State broke open a tight game by going on a 13-4 run over the final six-plus minutes of the first half. That staked the Buckeyes to a 34-22 halftime advantage. OSU then outscored Iowa 19-7 to open the second half and go up 53-29 with 12-1/2 minutes left. Iowa made a furious rally to get as close as eight before OSU was able to put it away.
Smith had eight points and Ross scored seven in the first half for the Buckeyes, who hit 53.6 percent of their shots in the first 20 minutes (15 of 28). Iowa could not find the range, hitting just 25 percent of its shots (8 of 32).
The teams traded baskets early. Smith took a long rebound off an Iowa airball and went coast-to-coast for a layup and an 8-5 lead with 16:34 left in the first half. The Hawkeyes went up 13-12 on a rebound jam by Eric May with 10:56 left in the half.
OSU reeled off seven straight with Ross hitting a three off a Shannon Scott assist, Ross hitting a 17-foot jumper and Ravenel scoring on a rebound for a 19-13 lead with 8:31 left in the half.
Iowa twice got the lead down to three after that, the last time on a rebound basket by White that cut it to 21-18 with 6:30 left in the half.
But OSU dominated the rest of the half with its 13-4 run to close the half. Scott drove for a layup and Ross made a turning one-handed shot. After Iowa’s Gabriel Olaseni had a jam, Thomas splashed a three off a Scott assist. Melsahn Basabe then scored inside for Iowa.
Ohio State scored the last six points of the half with Sam Thompson getting a layup off a Scott pass. Ravenel took a Scott pass, laid it in and was fouled with 5.1 seconds left in the half. He missed his free throw, but Smith rebounded it and scored with three seconds left for a 34-22 OSU lead at the break.
The Buckeyes did not rest on their laurels as they quickly doubled their lead from 12 to 24 points early in the second half. Craft opened it with a driving bank shot, while Thomas added a rebound basket. After a three-point play by Iowa’s White, Thompson hit a three from the right corner off a pass from Smith.
Thomas then had a driving layup, Thompson converted an Amir Williams blocked shot into a layup and Thomas had a tip-in. Ravenel later hit a baseline 17-footer to beat the shot clock and Thomas converted a Craft offensive rebound into a three-pointer. The 19-7 run had pushed the lead out to 24 a 53-29 with 12:49 left.
Iowa rallied with a 20-4 run to cut the lead down to eight at 57-49. McCabe hit a jumper, went 3 of 4 at the line and added a layup. Anthony Clemmons then drove for a pair of layups to cut it to 54-40 with 8:31 left. McCabe then made 1 of 2 free throws before May nailed a three to get it down to 12 at 56-44 with 6:51 left. After Craft made 1 of 2 free throws, Basabe had a rebound jam.
Then, after an OSU turnover on the inbounds play, Clemmons stroked a three to cut it down to eight at 57-49 with 5:50 left. Craft answered with a pair of free throws, but Iowa’s White tipped in a teammate’s missed free throw to again cut it to eight at 59-51 with 5:14 left.
Craft then broke the Iowa press and fed Smith for a layup and a 61-51 lead with 5:02 left. Then, after OSU’s Craft turned it over twice, Iowa’s Mike Gesell then hit a three to trim the gap to 61-54 with 3:33 left.
Craft then redeemed himself by breaking the press and driving for a layup and a 63-54 lead with 3:16 left.
Marble then hit a pair of free throws to trim the gap to 63-56 with 3:05 left. Ross then mishandled a Craft pass, giving Iowa a chance to cut the lead. White drove for a bank shot to trim it to five at 63-58 with 2:30 left in the game.
Craft then turned it over when he was whistled for a player control foul against Marble with 1:47 left. White was fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws to get Iowa within four at 63-59 with 1:30 left.
Craft was then fouled and made a free throw before having his second attempt waved off due to a lane violation by Ravenel. Thomas then rejected a shot by Iowa’s Gesell and was fouled. His two free throws made it 66-59 with 52.9 seconds left. Craft hit a pair of free throws for a 68-59 lead with 40 seconds left. Iowa twice got as close as seven after that, but could draw no closer.
“They were up by 24 with a substantial amount of time left,” McCaffery said. “A lot of times, teams don’t have the maturity or the patience to chip away. But that’s what we did.”
* Thomas had to leave the game after he was inadvertently elbowed by his teammate Scott and Iowa’s Basabe on a rebound with 10:36 left. He was bleeding from his right eye, but came back two minutes later.
“At least he didn’t act like he got shot this time,” Ravenel joked. “He went in and got a band-aid and came back out and balled out, like he always does.”
* Craft’s four steals allowed him to move out of a first-place tie with Jay Burson on OSU’s all-time career steals list. He now has 208 steals in his career.
* In the strange stat department, Craft called his six turnovers “unacceptable.” Williams had the same reaction as he had six blocked shots, but no rebounds.
“The fact I had zero rebounds is unacceptable,” Williams said. “I am better than having zero rebounds in a game. That will make us lose games.”
* Ohio State has now won the last eight meetings with the Hawkeyes and have wins in the last seven games played in Columbus. Overall, Iowa still owns the series lead with a 73-71 record. Ohio State is 46-25 in games played at Ohio State. As a ranked team, Ohio State is 23-10 in the Iowa series.
At Value City Arena (since 1998-99), Ohio State is 8-4 against Iowa.
Since his arrival at OSU in 2004-05, Thad Matta is now 11-4 against Iowa. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery is now 0-4 against OSU in his three seasons at Iowa. But McCaffery has a huge win over Ohio State to his credit. He was the coach at Siena in 2008-09, when the Saints knocked off OSU 74-72 in an NCAA first-round game in Dayton.
* Ohio State is now 72-20 vs. Big Ten opponents at Value City Arena.
* Ohio State owns a 148-13 home record during the Thad Matta era. The Buckeyes are 66-4 in Columbus over the past four seasons. That includes a 10-1 home record this year. The lone home loss was to Kansas.
* OSU was coming off Saturday’s loss at Michigan State (59-56). Ohio State has not lost back-to-back games since losses on the road at Wisconsin and Michigan in 2009-10. The Buckeyes played those two games without injured All-American Evan Turner.
* Matta’s teams are also 195-21 against unranked opponents. Over the last three years, OSU is 65-1 against unranked opponents with the lone loss at Illinois last January (79-74). The Buckeyes have won 64 straight home games against unranked opponents, dating to a Dec. 27, 2008, loss to West Virginia.
* Ohio State visits Penn State (8-10, 0-6) on Saturday (noon, ESPN2). Penn State visits Indiana on Wednesday before hosting OSU.
Iowa visits Purdue on Sunday (3:30 p.m., BTN).