Iowa-Ohio St. Preview
In spite of its recent woes, Iowa could soon force a tie atop the Big Ten without needing any help.
The eighth-ranked Hawkeyes first need to top short-handed Ohio State on Sunday.
Iowa (20-7, 11-4) has fallen 1 1/2 games behind first-place Indiana after losing three of four but can trim that deficit this weekend with the Hoosiers idle. The Hawkeyes then host Indiana on Tuesday.
To have a share of the Big Ten lead on the line in that game, though, Iowa first must avoid a season-high third consecutive defeat.
The Hawkeyes will require a much improved performance from their 67-59 home loss to Wisconsin on Wednesday. They were held to their lowest point total and shooting percentage (32.7) of the season.
Jarrod Uthoff, one of the Big Ten's leading scorers (18.6 ppg), was limited to 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting. Iowa committed 14 turnovers, its most since a season-high 17 in a loss at then-No. 4 Iowa State on Dec. 10.
"We didn't execute like we needed to. So we just have to do a better job of that, and they've got to understand that what I'm asking them to do is something they haven't already done," coach Fran McCaffery said. "They've already proven they can play (well), just got to get back to playing that way."
Iowa has won two straight and three of four against Ohio State, including victories in both visits to Columbus against ranked Buckeyes teams. The teams haven't met since Jan. 17, 2015, when Iowa won 76-67 at home despite Uthoff and Peter Jok totaling 14 points on 4-of-15 shooting.
Jok is averaging 25.3 points in his last three games, but starting backcourt mate Mike Gesell has shot 5 for 25 in that span.
Ohio State (18-11, 10-6) has won 11 of 13 at home, but the losses were to Top 10 opponents Maryland and Michigan State. The Buckeyes have lost four straight home games against ranked teams dating back to last March, and had a four-game overall win streak snapped Tuesday with an 81-62 loss to the No. 6 Spartans.
It was Ohio State's first game since losing Jae'Sean Tate for the season due to shoulder surgery. The sophomore forward was averaging 11.7 points and 6.4 boards.
"I think he's the heart and soul of this team. We challenge our guys when we have a man down, we need to man up," coach Thad Matta said. "It's one of those things you hate for Jae'Sean. But, with that said, you need to find a way to regroup again."
Freshman Mickey Mitchell got his first start to replace Tate but went scoreless in 21 minutes.
Buckeyes leading scorer Marc Loving (12.9 ppg) had 19 points, his most in 14 games. Freshman guard JaQuan Lyle, averaging 10.5 points, has a combined 35 in his past two contests.