Ohio State won’t face a ranked opponent Wednesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but that doesn’t mean the road to victory will be much easier for coach Thad Matta’s team.
The 20th-ranked Buckeyes look to rebound from another road loss as they take on an Iowa team that’s playing its best ball of the season.
Ohio State (14-6, 4-3 Big Ten) was outscored by 18 points in the second half and fell to 1-5 on the road with Saturday’s 71-65 loss to then-No. 11 West Virginia. Including setbacks at Butler and Wisconsin, three of the Buckeyes’ five road losses have come against ranked opponents.
“You look at the places we’ve been this year … it doesn’t get much more challenging,” Matta said. “Hopefully the guys are seasoned in that regard and ready to go.”
Ohio State will have to be ready as it faces the resurgent Hawkeyes (8-12, 2-5), who have won three of four. They beat Indiana 58-43 on Sunday, earning their first conference road win since a 67-62 victory over Northwestern on March 4, 2008.
“We have a lot more confidence,” Iowa sophomore forward Aaron Fuller told the school’s official Web site Tuesday. “We know it’s going to be a tough game (Wednesday), so we need to prepare well today and listen to what coach (Todd Lickliter) says.”
Fuller is averaging 17.5 points and 8.3 rebounds in his last four games, but could face a difficult matchup on the defensive end in Buckeyes junior Evan Turner, who is averaging 20.8 points with 8.4 boards and 4.8 assists in his last five contests.
“I’m not going to announce (who will guard Turner) yet,” said Lickliter, whose team will try to win three straight at home for the second time this season. “So everybody gets the same amount of rest tonight. If you don’t guard Turner, you have to guard somebody who can really play.”
Ohio State sophomore guard William Buford, who scored a season-high 22 on Saturday, leads active Buckeyes in career scoring versus Iowa with 11.5 points per game. He is averaging 16.5 with 8.0 rebounds in four Big Ten road games this season.
Junior guard Jon Diebler, second in the conference with a 44.9 3-point shooting percentage, averaged 19.5 points and hit 11 of 17 from beyond the arc in two wins against the Hawkeyes in 2008-09, including a 60-58 victory last March 3 in Iowa City that snapped Ohio State’s four-game losing streak at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Turner had 22 points and nine boards in that win.
Iowa’s Devan Bawinkel had a career-high 24 points - all on eight 3-pointers - in that matchup and Jake Kelly scored 19 with 11 rebounds, but the Hawkeyes will look elsewhere for their production this time. Bawinkel has seen his minutes drop to 15 per game during his senior season, while Kelly has transferred to Indiana State.
One alternate source of production for Iowa could be junior forward Jarryd Cole, who had two points and two rebounds in last season’s home loss to Ohio State, but is now looking to build off his third career double-double. He had 11 points and 10 rebounds Sunday against the Hoosiers.
“It was really great to get the Big Ten road win,” said Cole, whose 61.9 field-goal percentage leads the conference. “It feels good going into the game on Wednesday with Ohio State and hopefully we can carry this momentum over and get another victory.”
Iowa has dropped 14 straight to Top 25 teams since a 43-36 victory over then-No. 6 Michigan State on Jan. 12, 2008.
Ohio State is 20-47 all-time in Iowa City.