Ohio State takes another step toward righting itself with win at Iowa

For all the handwringing over Ohio State's disastrous January, the Buckeyes have done an impressive job righting themselves since the calendar turned.

Ohio State emerged from its slump Saturday by rallying from a seven-point deficit to edge host Wisconsin by a point. The Buckeyes then built some momentum Tuesday by avenging a previous loss to Iowa with a 76-69 victory in Iowa City.

The unexpected two-game win streak evens Ohio State's Big Ten record at 5-5 and elevates the Buckeyes to within a game of third place in the league. That's not ideal for a team that was once 15-0 and ranked No. 3 in the nation before dropping five of six, but it's certainly better than where many expected Ohio State to be after it lost at home to Penn State last week.

Of Ohio State's two road wins, Tuesday's victory over Iowa was the more encouraging of the two by far.

The cold-shooting Buckeyes won in Madison despite shooting only 42.8 percent from the field, missing key free throws down the stretch and giving Wisconsin new life in the final seconds with a near-disastrous turnover. They were much more efficient offensively at Iowa, shooting 51 percent from the floor, sinking 7 of 16 from behind the arc and eclipsing 75 points for the first time since Jan. 4.

Aaron Craft led the way with 17 points on 6 of 7 shooting including a huge 3-point play on a driving layup to extend Ohio State's lead to seven with 1:21 to play. Four other Buckeyes scored in double figures, with center Amir Williams delivering a huge 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting.

Ohio State's defense was also stingier on Tuesday than it was when the Buckeyes lost to Iowa in Columbus. Whereas the Hawkeyes shot 47.5 percent from the field the first time the two teams met, they shot a modest 45 percent this time and sank only 3 of 20 attempts from behind the arc.

It's difficult to estimate exactly how good Ohio State is since it's sometimes anemic offense is short a dynamic scorer and it's defense near the rim has been inconsistent. Nonetheless, it seems safe to assume the Buckeyes are neither as good as they looked in non-league play nor as bad as they looked during their January skid.

This isn't a team that will contend for a Big Ten title or national championship. It's also probably not a team that will have to worry about whether it's name will be called on Selection Sunday either.

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