The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa men’s basketball looks for much-needed win against Ohio State

The Hawkeyes are currently tied with Penn State for 11th place in the conference, with each school holding a 4-6 Big Ten mark.
Iowa+guard+Tony+Perkins+dribbles+past+a+defender+during+a+mens+basketball+game+between+the+Iowa+Hawkeyes+and+the+Maryland+Terrapins+at+Carver-Hawkeye+Arena+on+Wednesday%2C+Jan.+24%2C+2024.+The+Terrapins+defeated+the+Hawkeyes%2C+69-67.
Theodore Retsinas
Iowa guard Tony Perkins dribbles past a defender during a men’s basketball game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Maryland Terrapins at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. The Terrapins defeated the Hawkeyes, 69-67.

The Iowa men’s basketball team looks for a much-needed triumph Friday evening against Ohio State as it enters the second half of Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes are currently tied with Penn State for 11th place in the conference, with each school holding a 4-6 Big Ten mark. 

In order to finish with a winning record in conference play, Iowa needs to go 7-3 down the stretch. Four of those upcoming contests are against schools with sub-.500 conference records, including the Buckeyes, who sit in 12th place at 3-7 and have dropped three straight matchups. 

Scouting Ohio State

Headlining head coach Chris Holtmann’s squad is second-year guard Bruce Thornton. Hailing from Alpharetta, Georgia, the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder has increased his scoring average five points from last season to 15.7 per game. Dishing out a team-best 4.3 assists per game, Thornton also averages 1.4 steals. 

Starring alongside Thornton is Minnesota transfer Jamison Battle, who is having a career-topping shooting performance from long range in his first season in Columbus. The 6-foot-7, 220-pounder is knocking down triples at a 44.4 percent clip. 

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery was also complimentary of Ohio State’s sixth man Zed Key. Averaging just over 17 minutes per game, the 6-foot-8, 230-pounder provides eight points and 4.8 boards per contest. 

Down low for the Buckeyes is second-yeaar center Felix Okpara. Standing at 6-foot-11, Okpara averages 2.5 blocks per game – ranking second in the Big Ten – while shooting 60 percent from the floor. 

Such size in the front court has helped Ohio State rank fifth in the conference in terms of team rebounds per game. Potential battles under the basket may prove costly for Iowa, especially first-year big man Owen Freeman, who has gotten himself into foul trouble as of late. In four of the Hawkeyes’ last five games, Freeman has been whistled at least four times. 

“We show him film,” McCaffery said of Freeman during Thursday media availability. “Sometimes you think it’s not a foul, and that gets frustrating. But then you look at the play [and say], ‘Well, maybe I did come down on his arm. Maybe I did bump him ahead of time.’ Look at what the officials are seeing so he learns from it.” 

Iowa’s probable starters for Friday are the same as they were for the Hawkeyes’ previous game against Indiana, with second-year guard Josh Dix starting over senior forward Patrick McCaffery. The head coach said Patrick McCaffery will likely come off the bench again but added that it all depends on “how close to 100 percent” Dix is. Dix said he “tweaked his ankle” in the first half against the Hoosiers but still played out the rest of the game. 

“This is a must-win game. We want to win out at home the rest of the year,” Dix said of the upcoming matchup against the Buckeyes.

Emerging scoring combo  

Following Iowa’s two-point home loss to Maryland on Jan. 24, Fran McCaffery fielded questions from the media regarding who would be the Hawkeyes’ go-to scorer in the wake of past greats such as Luka Garza and Kris and Keegan Murray. Now, in the last two games, Iowa may have found its answer, and its two folded. 

In the first six games of 2024, Tony Perkins and Payton Sandfort have combined for at least 40 points just once. Since then, the pair has scored 62.8 percent of the Hawkeyes’ points. For Perkins, his recent scoring outburst has delivered four straight games with at least 20 points. 

“You want him to continue to be aggressive. That’s where he’s at his best,” Fran McCaffery said of Perkins. “But he’s also been fairly under control as a point guard, and that’s a big difference. When you’re a two-guard, you can attack, but as the point guard, you have to pick your spots. So he’s been really impressive.” 

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Theodore Retsinas, Photojournalist
(he/him/his)
Theodore Retsinas is a freshman at the University of Iowa studying Neuroscience.