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 falls, 90-78, to Ohio State in second round of Big Ten Tournament

The Buckeyes topped the Hawkeyes for the second season in a row, this time behind strong supporting cast and lights-out shooting.
Carly Schrum
Ohio State center Felix Okpara dunks during a men’s basketball game between No. 7 Iowa and No. 10 Ohio State at the second round of the TIAA Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., on Thursday, March 14, 2024. The Buckeyes defeated the Hawkeyes, 90-78. Okpara had five rebounds and fouled out of the game late in the second half.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – The Iowa men’s basketball team’s Big Ten Tournament run is over after just one game, once again at the hands of Ohio State. The seventh-seeded Hawkeyes fell, 90-78, to the 10th-seeded Buckeyes in the second round for consecutive seasons. 

Third-year forward Payton Sandfort led all Hawkeyes in scoring with 19 points as well as six rebounds and three assists. Fourth-year guard Tony Perkins and graduate forward Ben Krikke contributed 13 points apiece and first-year forward Owen Freeman also reached double-digits with 10 points. 

After the final buzzer sounded, Sandfort’s eyes brimmed with tears as he walked towards the sideline. Even though he has more years of eligibility remaining, Sandfort’s mind fixated on the present and its consequences for others.

“I think the hardest part is knowing that some of these guys won’t be able to live out their dreams and it’s hard for me,” Sandfort said in the locker room. “I love everybody in here … The whole year was just for everybody to get what they dreamed of and give what we worked for.” 

After qualifying for the NCAA Tournament in four of the last five seasons, the Hawkeyes’ postseason hopes were reduced to a likely NIT bid, as the Buckeyes’ scorching offense proved to be too much.

Heading into the Target Center, Ohio State ranked tenth in the Big Ten in three-point percentage at 34, but against the Hawkeyes, the Buckeyes shot 55 percent from downtown. Interim head coach Jake Diebler’s squad also had the advantage in points in the paint as Iowa let up at least 90 total points for the fifth time this season.

In his postgame press conference, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery credited Ohio State’s multi-pronged offensive attack. The Buckeyes’ leading scorer, Bruce Thornton, finished with 14 points – two below his season average.

Instead, his running mates picked up the slack, as Jamison Battle, Scotty Middleton, and Roddy Gayle Jr. each put up double figures, combining for 35 points on 12-of-20 shooting.

“There were some different instances where guys didn’t need as much help as we were giving,” Krikke said. “We’re helping out on shooters, and broken-play threes [happen], when we get an initial stop and [Ohio State] gets a rebound and kicks it out … We just weren’t scrambling at the same pace that we needed to to get out to those shooters.”

“They played a lot more in transition,” first-year forward Owen Freeman added. “That was something the coaches really emphasized. They’ve really channeled the defensive energy and turned that up.”

The game started off with an easy Ohio State basket on one end and a Tony Perkins offensive foul on the other end. The next possession down, Perkins made up for his turnover with a slick dish to Owen Freeman under the basket. The Hawkeyes went on to miss their next four shots as they quickly fell to a 10-2 deficit four minutes into the contest. 

Payton Sandfort quickly took the game over after the Iowa timeout, scoring nine of the Hawkeyes’ next 13 points to cut the Buckeye lead to two points.

“I thought it was particularly impressive considering how he was being guarded, so I’m proud of him,” Fran McCaffery said of Sandfort’s performance.

But Iowa went on a three-minute scoring drought as Ohio State jumped back out to a nine-point lead with seven minutes to go in the first half. A Freeman layup at the rim and a Brock Harding three off the fast break put the Hawkeyes within four once again.

After Ohio State’s Roddy Gale Jr. hit the stepback three to give the Buckeyes a seven-point advantage, Krikke’s layup and Freeman’s converted and-one inside the paint squeezed Iowa to a 40-38 deficit with less than a minute to go in the half. But a Scotty Middleton three and a Harding blocked shot put an end to a rocky first 20 minutes of play for Iowa as they trailed, 43-38, heading into the break. 

Over the first 20 minutes, the Hawkeyes shot 54 percent from the floor to the Buckeyes’ 61. Ohio State also had the edge on the glass with a 17-11 rebounding margin. Meanwhile, Iowa’s first offensive rebound didn’t come until the final two minutes of the first session. 

Freeman admitted rebounding was a point of emphasis heading into the contest, but added the Hawkeyes had more left to be desired in the category. Iowa actually had more offensive rebounds than Ohio State by the buzzer, but still trailed in total boards, 42-36.

Both teams scored 10 points each through the first five minutes of the second half, with Sandfort’s two triples and dime to a trailing Krikke being responsible for eight of those 10 for the Hawkeyes. But Ohio State’s Jamison Battle scored six straight points in the next three minutes to put the Buckeyes up nine. 

Another Buckeye bucket inside extended the lead to double-digits. Perkins and Sandfort’s aggressiveness earned them trips to the free throw line, where they each converted a pair to shorten the lead to seven. But it was Jamison once again converting the offensive rebound for an and-one opportunity and a catch-and-shoot three to put Ohio State right back up, 73-62, with nine minutes to go. 

“I thought we had some good looks,” Krikke said of Iowa’s incomplete comebacks. “They were fouling and obviously the free throw line we missed nine, it sucks. We’re a better free throw shooting team and that was disappointing in a 12-point loss to miss nine free throws … it seemed like we couldn’t quite get over the hump of getting a timely stop.”

With Ohio State reaching the bonus with more than 10 minutes to go in the second half, the Buckeyes made got plenty of production from the charity stripe, knocking down 16-of-22 in the second half. For the entire contest, Iowa made 18 of its 27 free throw attempts.

The two opponents traded buckets over the next five minutes as the score read 78-68 with four minutes to go in the contest. Krikke, Perkins, and Josh Dix all contributed baskets down the stretch, but the Buckeyes responded for every bucket the Hawkeyes scored.

Battle’s slam in transition gave Ohio State a 12-point advantage, and Iowa was left to watch as its NCAA Tournament hopes fell to a near impossibility.

“We were just a few possessions away [against Ohio State],” Krikke said. “A few different bounces, maybe a few different outcomes and different plays, and I think we’re right there.”

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Chris Meglio
Chris Meglio, Sports Reporter
Chris Meglio is a first year student at the University of Iowa studying a double major in sport studies and journalism. He will be working as a sports journalist for The Daily Iowan covering women's volleyball for the fall sports season.
Carly Schrum
Carly Schrum, Photojournalist
Carly is a freshman majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and potentially majoring in sustainability. She works at the Daily Iowan as a photojournalist.