Opinion | Sunday’s ‘signature’ victory was exactly what Iowa needed going into March

The Hawkeyes finally put together a complete performance against one of the elite teams in the country.

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© Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 28, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes guard Jordan Bohannon (3) goes to the basket as Ohio State Buckeyes forward Kyle Young (25) defends during the first half at Value City Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Read, Pregame Editor


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Three minutes and 11 seconds into the second half of Sunday’s matchup between No. 9 Iowa and No. 4 Ohio State, “Here we go again” came to mind.

Ohio State just scored 14 points on six possessions to begin the second half and Iowa’s 14-point halftime lead was down to two. But rather than letting another game against elite competition slip away, the Hawkeyes punched back to close out a 73-57 victory.

It was the type of complete, dominant victory we all expected from this Iowa men’s basketball team coming into the season. And it’s exactly what the Hawkeyes needed heading into March.

“We played pretty much a complete game,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “And that’s how you want to play this time of year. Yeah, they had a run… It’s great to have a performance like this, but you have to turn it around and do it again.”

Sunday’s win is Iowa’s (18-7 overall, 12-6 Big Ten) 18th of the season, but it is the team’s first signature victory, point guard Jordan Bohannon said. The Hawkeyes had won six games against ranked foes heading into their matchup with the Buckeyes (18-7, 12-7), but none of those wins came against the best of the best.

RELATED: Rapid Recap: No. 9 Iowa men’s basketball team downs No. 4 Ohio State in Columbus

And playing against the best of the best hadn’t gone very well entering Sunday.

Against top-ranked Gonzaga at a neutral site, Iowa lost by 11 points.

At rival Illinois? Stayed close but didn’t make the plays it needed to late and lost by five.

The first meeting with Ohio State? Lost an 11-point second-half lead at home to lose by four.

In Thursday’s game in Ann Arbor, Iowa lost to Michigan by 22 despite only trailing by three through 20 minutes of play. And that’s part of what makes Sunday’s victory so impressive.

Not only did the Hawkeyes win, but they did so in their first game with Jack Nunge out of the lineup (Nunge suffered a torn meniscus against Michigan), and they did it despite Ohio State’s run to begin the second half.

Defeating the fourth-ranked team in the country in Columbus in a nationally televised Sunday afternoon game on CBS is quite the way to bounce back after Thursday’s game. And it gives Iowa that win to go at the top of its March Madness résumé.

“We needed a signature win like this,” said Bohannon, who became the program’s all-time leader in assists in the first half. “We’ve had a lot of good wins. But we haven’t had a great win on the road and this was finally a great win on the road against a really good basketball team.”

RELATED: Jordan Bohannon breaks Iowa men’s basketball program’s all-time assist record

Iowa won the rebounding battle against Ohio State, and held the Buckeyes to 29 percent shooting from the perimeter. Both are areas where the Hawkeyes have struggled this season. Overall, Iowa held Ohio State (the third-most efficient offensive team in the country) to a season-low 57 points.

Luka Garza scored 24 points (10-of-16 shooting) and hauled in 11 rebounds, but didn’t have to dominate alone. Joe Wieskamp added 19 points and hit five 3-pointers for the fourth time this month. Bohannon (two 3-pointers) and Keegan Murray added eight points. Joe Toussaint dished out seven assists and played critical defense off the bench.

All eight Hawkeyes who took the court were involved and contributed.

Another loss could have put Iowa in danger of losing a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament or dropping off the two- or three-seed line in the NCAA Tournament. Now, both of the scenarios seem pretty secure.

Everything that could have gone right for Iowa ended up going right on Sunday.

“We’re an experienced group, a resilient group,” Garza said. “We’ve had confidence all year that we can compete with the best of the best and we can beat them. Unfortunately we’ve had a couple performances that didn’t reflect how good we are.”

And that’s why Iowa’s final game in February is the one that makes me feel the most confident about the team’s chances in March. Now I know the Hawkeyes can put together a complete performance, even with obstacles in the way.

And they can do so against the best of the best.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


 

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