DAYTON, Ohio — Ohio State is rolling, but on Sunday it meets a team that can match its athleticism. Iowa State is going to fire away from the 3-point line and test Ohio State’s defense the way it hasn’t been tested in weeks.
At stake is a trip to Los Angeles and the Sweet 16; the winner plays Arizona.
The West region of the NCAA tournament is wide open, and Ohio State is playing as well as any team in the entire bracket. DETAILS: Sunday, 12:15 p.m., University of Dayton Arena. The Buckeyes are the West region’s No. 2 seed; the Cyclones are No. 10.
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STREAKING: The Buckeyes have won nine straight games including last weekend’s Big Ten tournament and a dominating 95-70 win over Iona Friday night. Iowa State has won seven of eight against teams not named Kansas. The Cyclones didn’t encounter much resistance from Notre Dame Friday night in the first round, winning 76-58.
STREAKING, PART II: Ohio State’s Sam Thompson comes off his first career double-double as he had 20 points and 10 rebounds in Friday night’s win. Thompson is one of the country’s best dunkers and has been one of the beneficiaries of the Buckeyes defense creating easy opportunities. Iona couldn’t match Ohio State’s athletes but insisted on trying to push tempo. Iowa State has some muscle and likes to get out and go, too, and it will be interesting to see how the Cyclones defend the Buckeyes in the half court. If Thompson and company can make jump shots and win the rebounding battle, it could be a long day for Iowa State.
TRACK MEET: On the season, Iowa State averages 79.5 points per game and shoots better than 37 percent from behind the 3-point line. Backup Tyrus McGee nailed three 3-pointers on Friday night in the win over Notre Dame, complementing an inside game sparked by Georges Niang (19 points in that game) and Melvin Ejim (17). Iowa State’s fast-paced offense is driven by point guard Korie Lucious, a senior transfer from Michigan State who averages a little under 10 points and 6 assists per game.
Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas was the Big Ten’s leading scorer this season, and the Buckeyes win with defense and an athletic roster. But their success of late has been keyed by a two point-guard lineup in which Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott frustrate opposing guards with their relentless defense and get quality looks at the other end. Iowa State wants to go fast — and that’s fine with the Buckeyes. Defense leading to easy baskets has driven this win streak, and for Iowa State to be successful Sunday Lucious will need to minimize turnovers and distribute the ball smartly.
The Buckeyes don’t get much offense in the post, but they’ll need big men Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams to defend and rebound well and hope that long Iowa State shots will lead to long rebounds and transition chances.
The bottom line is Ohio State will use both Craft and Scott on Lucious and hope not only to create turnovers but to keep him from throwing the ball ahead for open looks and easy points. The Buckeyes are comfortable in a fast-paced game, too, but only when Thomas is scoring and they’re creating scoring opportunities with their defense. If Iowa State is able to score inside and shoots a decent percentage from the 3-point line, this will be a very close game all the way through, OHIO STATE COACH THAD MATTA SAYS: “We’ve got to guard inside, we’ve got to guard outside, we’ve got to guard in between. They’ve got midrange players. It’s definitely, definitely going to be a great challenge. I view these guys as, offensively there’s a lot of ways they put a lot of points on the board, and obviously transition defense will be paramount.” IOWA STATE COACH FRED HOIBERG SAYS: “I think Aaron Craft is as dominant a defensive player at the guard spot maybe that I’ve ever seen. He just poses so many problems as far as creating turnovers which lead to run outs, which lead to baskets. We’ve got to take great care of the basketball. The other thing we have to do is take care of the glass. If we can get some rebounds, hopefully, that will create some transition opportunities for our team.”