The rubber match between No. 13 seeded Ohio State and No. 5 seeded Iowa was a tug-of-war contest with 18 lead changes, which the Buckeyes won 73-69 Thursday in Chicago.
The Buckeyes (15-18) had eight different players in the scoring column and made crucial plays down the stretch in order to secure the upset victory, while shooting 49 percent from the field and notching a 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio as a team. Freshman guard Bruce Thornton scored a team-high 17 points with six assists, while redshirt senior forward Justice Sueing led with five rebounds.
Meanwhile Iowa (19-13) struggled from 3-point range, shooting just 24 percent and committing 11 team turnovers. Fifth-year forward Filip Rebrača scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while junior forward Kris Murray dished out five assists.
Thornton opened the scoring with a mid-range jumpshot, and from there, the teams vied for control. The largest lead either team managed was six points, where Ohio State led 21-15 with 7:48 to go in the half.
Compared to the first two matchups between these teams, the first half was relatively low scoring, in part due to both teams shooting poorly from 3-point range. In a half that saw 10 lead changes, Ohio State held a slim 29-28 advantage going into halftime.
Coming out of the locker room, the second half played out nearly identical to the first, with multiple lead changes dictating the flow. The Hawkeyes relied on Rebrača, junior guard Tony Perkins and Murray for scoring — with the trio combining for 31 of the Hawkeyes’ 41 second half points.
Meanwhile the Buckeyes found points from seven players in the half, highlighted by a solo 5-0 scoring run from freshman guard Roddy Gayle Jr., which forced Iowa to call a timeout at 64-61 Ohio State with 3:17 remaining.
During crunch time, the tension in the air was palpable, and neither team was willing to give an inch. Head coach Chris Holtmann relied on his own trio of freshmen in Thornton, Gayle and center Felix Okpara in the waning minutes.
With under 20 seconds left, a sequence saw a mad scramble for the ball and possession change hands three times, but the ball was eventually called off Murray and awarded to Ohio State.
Sueing — who scored 14 points — hit his two free throws and sealed the game for the Buckeyes to advance to the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.
The rebounding was fairly even as the Hawkeyes finished with a slight advantage at 31-29, but Ohio State dished out 17 team assists compared to Iowa’s 11. Freshman forward Brice Sensabaugh also finished with 16 points.
Ohio State plays No. 4 seed Michigan State Friday in Chicago, which will be aired on Big Ten Network. A start time has yet to be announced.
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