Finally, everything came together when it mattered most. And finally, the Iowa men’s basketball team finished off a signature victory away from home.
The Hawkeyes took Ohio State’s best punch midway through the second half and went on two runs of their own during an 84-74 statement triumph over the No. 3 Buckeyes in front of 18,809 fans at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. It was the first win in Columbus in 10 years and the first victory over Ohio State in the last eight games.
“I think it’s a statement win, definitely for the fans, for the media, for the people who watch us and have seen us kind of struggle,” Iowa senior Melsahn Basabe said. “But for us, we expected to win this game.”
Iowa, which let big leads get away against three nationally ranked programs in Villanova, Iowa State and Wisconsin earlier this year, had all the right answers for the Buckeyes on Sunday.
Amedeo Della Valle buried a 3-pointer with 12:51 left that gave Ohio State its biggest lead at nine, but the Hawkeyes got within one with an 8-0 run and then grabbed an advantage for good with another 8-0 spurt in the final 5 minutes.
"We shared the ball, hit a couple of 3s in timely situations, answered their runs and made our run at the right time," said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. "To go on the road and beat a team of this caliber with the job that Thad (Matta) has done at Ohio State is great for our program."
It Iowa’s first win over a top-five program since Dec. 15, 2001, when they traveled to No. 2 Missouri and beat the Tigers 83-65.
Five Hawkeyes scored in double figures in the win, and Iowa out-rebounded Ohio State 40-31, outscored the Buckeyes in 44-32 in the paint and scored 27 points off 17 turnovers by the home team.
"It was a battle of defenses," said Roy Devyn Marble. "We scored a lot of points. They don't usually give up 84. That goes to show the character of our team to play our style of play, listen to our coaches and follow the game plan."
And Iowa (14-3, 3-1) finally put a ranked team away from the foul line. The Hawks were 21-of-26 from the charity stripe in the game but made 10-of-12 in the final 1:26 to secure the biggest win in the McCaffery era.
Marble, a senior, scored more than 20 points for the fifth time this year and 18th time in his career, finishing with 22 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Ohio native and junior Aaron White added 19 points and six boards in a return to his home state, while senior Melsahn Basabe totaled his third double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
All three made significant plays down the stretch for the 20th ranked Hawkeyes.
The first 8-0 run featured two free throws from Marble and back-to-back triples from sophomore Mike Gesell and White. Sophomore Jarrod Uthoff then tied the game at 55-all with a third straight Iowa trey. Gesell and Uthoff were the other two Hawkeyes in double-figures with 11 and 10, respectively.
After two more ties – there were nine ties and 16 lead changes in the game – the Hawkeyes scored another eight unanswered points thanks to three free throws from Marble and a dunk by White.
The Buckeyes closed to within two following a three-point play by Amir Williams.
Basabe answered at the other end though when he got up in the air and tipped a miss into the basket. Then, with the shot clock winding down, White hit a running jumper with 2:07 to play, and that bucket made it a 6-point game.
Then free throws came into play. And this time, the Hawkeyes were up to the challenge. Marble and Basabe were both 3-of-4, while Gesell and White were 2-of-2 in the final 1:26.
That put away the Buckeyes for good and pushed the lead back to double-digits. Iowa’s largest lead of the second half was 13 with 32 seconds on the clock.
“People kept asking, ‘Why can’t you win on the road? Why can’t you make big plays down the stretch?’ ” junior forward Aaron White said. “‘Why can’t you put two halves together?’ So we answered all those critics.”
The 84 points allowed by Ohio State was easily the most the Buckeyes have allowed this season. The previous high came in OSU’s other loss to Michigan State when they surrendered 72. No other opponent this year has reached 70.
"The zone was working for us," said Marble. "We were able to force turnovers, and I was able to get into the passing lanes a couple of times. We were able to pressure them like they wanted to pressure us. We wanted to come out and be the tougher team today, and I think we did that."
LaQuinton Ross led the Buckeyes (15-2, 2-2) with 22 points and seven rebounds, while Williams added 11 points and six rebounds. Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 10.
Aaron Craft has been a thorn in Iowa’s side the past three seasons but was held in check Sunday. The senior point guard had a team-high six assists, but scored just six points on 2-of-5 shooting and also turned it over six times and fouled out.
The Hawkeyes have a week off before facing Minnesota next Sunday at noon on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.