COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—Jon Diebler may be the streakiest shooter in college basketball.
Fortunately for No. 24 Ohio State, in the Buckeyes’ Big Ten opener he was on a good streak instead of a bad one.
Diebler scored a career-high 27 points and Evan Turner hit three late free throws to lead the Buckeyes past Iowa 68-65 Wednesday.
“Diebler was terrific,” Iowa coach Todd Lickliter said. “Those shots, there were some that were open and there were some that he just raised up.”
In a physical game between two of the nation’s top defensive teams, the Buckeyes (10-1) built an early lead, lost it, regained it, and then barely had enough to hang on at the finish.
Matt Gatens, who led the Hawkeyes (10-4) with 22 points, missed a tying 3-pointer with 9 seconds remaining. After a wild scramble for the loose ball, the Buckeyes grabbed it and made a long pass to melt away the final few seconds.
Devan Bawinkel had 15 points and Jake Kelly 11 for Iowa, which hit 14-of-28 3-pointers—one away from tying the school record for 3s in a game.
Diebler had managed to hit just 4 of 20 shots from the field in the Buckeyes’ last three games, including three of 15 from behind the arc.
“It’s hard to score 27 points,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “What Jon did today, especially in the second half, he was a tremendous boost for us.”
Against the Hawkeyes, he suddenly found the range. The sophomore, Ohio’s leading prep scorer out of tiny Upper Sandusky High School, hit 7 of 10 3-pointers and 8 of 12 shots from the field to surpass his previous best of 20 points in a 73-68 upset of No. 20 Miami.
“Guys were setting great screens for me and I was just shooting open shots,” Diebler said.
William Buford matched a career-high with 16 points, and Turner finished with 11 points for the Buckeyes, still smarting from a 76-48 beating at home to West Virginia on Saturday.
Asked how much better this game was for him that the last one, Diebler cracked up.
“It was good because we didn’t get beat by 30 and we won,” he said. “Against West Virginia, that was just bad. We didn’t do anything we were supposed to do. (But) guys took it upon themselves to do their job, step up and play their role on the team and overall you see the efficiency we played with when we do that.”
The Hawkeyes, down 30-15 with just over 5 minutes left in the half, scratched their way back to pull grab their first lead on Bawinkel’s 3-pointer, all alone in the left corner, at the 11:42 mark. Kelly’s shot in the lane upped the lead to 50-46.
After Diebler hit a 3 that went in and out before falling, Kelly almost immediately hit one of his own for a 65-64 Iowa advantage with 3:27 left. That was the Hawkeyes’ last points of the game.
Turner hit two foul shots with 3:14 left to give the Buckeyes the lead for good, then added another almost a minute later.
Gatens missed an open 3 with 34 seconds left from the right wing before Diebler was fouled with 20.7 seconds left. He hit the second in the double-bonus to push the lead to 68-65.
Gatens took a 3 from the left wing with 9 seconds left with Ohio State’s Dallas Lauderdale lunging at him as he released it. The ball hit the iron and bounced out.
“I thought we had two pretty good looks at the end,” Lickliter said.
Both teams walked away exhausted after a typical, bruising Big Ten battle.
Matta sipped on a soft drink as he pushed back his matted hair. His white shirt was drenched in perspiration.
Before answering questions, he smiled and said, “I’m too tired to make a statement.”