IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Buckeyes look like they might finally be ready to give top-ranked Michigan State a go on Sunday.
Keita Bates-Diop scored 27 points with 13 rebounds, Jae’Sean Tate had 18 points and Ohio State cruised past Iowa 92-81 on Thursday night, its seventh win in its last eight games.
Kam Williams scored 13 points for the surging Buckeyes (12-4, 3-0 Big Ten), who also notched their sixth road win in their last eight tries at Iowa.
Next up are the Spartans — the favorites to yet again win the league.
“They’re a legitimate national championship contender. We’re a program that is trying to find our way here a little bit,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said about hosting the Spartans this weekend in arguably the biggest game of the Big Ten’s young season. “We have not been through something like that as a group, with a team of that caliber coming into our place.”
Ohio State looked like a big-time Big Ten team in jumping all over the Hawkeyes (9-8, 0-4) at the outset, grabbing a 17-point lead late in the first half.
Iowa went on a 12-0 run to climb within five early in the second half, but the Buckeyes’ lead was back up to 15 after a 10-0 run keyed by Bates-Diop.
“I give our older guys a lot of credit for being able to stem the tide,” Holtmann said. “Our bench was really important for us as well.”
Tyler Cook scored 21 points with nine boards and Jordan Bohannon had 15 points with 10 assists to lead Iowa, which has dropped two straight.
“It’s problematic at both ends,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
THE BIG PICTURE
Ohio State: The Buckeyes took advantage of Iowa’s poor defense to get into a rhythm on offense early on and build an edge the woeful Hawkeyes couldn’t overcome. Micah Potter had six points and five rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench, and Andrew Dakich had six assists in a reserve role.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes let their opponent get off to a hot start for the second game in a row, as Ohio State jumped ahead by 10 less than eight minutes in. Iowa’s defense has been brutal in its last two games, a sign of a young team but also a sign that the bottom might soon be falling out for this season— if it hasn’t already. Iowa is 0-4 in the league, and three of those games were at home.
Concerns over Iowa’s 11-man rotation certainly weren’t eased on Thursday. The Hawkeyes had four players; Cordell Pemsl, Brady Ellingson, Ryan Kriener and Ahmad Wagner, combine to play 40 minutes. They finished with just one point, from Pemsl on a free throw.
Iowa freshman Luka Garza, who was re-inserted into the starting lineup, finished with 15 points and six rebounds. …Ohio State eventually cooled off from 3-point range, finishing 7 of 20. …Bates-Diop was 10 of 17 from the floor. …C.J. Jackson had 12 for Ohio State. …Bohannon’s double-double was the fourth of his career.
HE SAID IT
“We’ve got some guys that are struggling right now. And we are young. But we have enough experience, in my opinion, to be playing better than we’re playing,” McCaffery said. “I don’t want to use that as an excuse, because those sophomores played a lot last year.”
The Buckeyes host the Spartans on Sunday.
The Hawkeyes play at Maryland on Sunday in first of three straight road games.