OPPONENT: The Hawkeyes will no doubt have revenge on their minds considering the 79-48 donkey punch delivered by Ohio State back on January 9th.
Since being violated, the Hawkeyes have won 3 of 6 coming up just short of an upset at first place Purdue Wednesday night. Iowa kept it close throughout but committed 22 turnovers before Tony Freeman fouled Purdue's Keaton Grant with 5 seconds left in a tie game allowing the Boilers to win the game at the stripe. Ouch.
While a close loss often creates a hangover effect, I don't expect that to be the case here. Teams under .500 consider close losses moral victories and there's no doubt head coach Todd Lickliter's squad has improved since being blown out by OSU as evidenced by their defeat of Sparty, and two close games with Purdue.
While improved, Iowa's offense is about as stable as Amy Winehouse. In league play, the Hawkeyes rank last in the conference in Scoring Offense (56.1) and Assist/Turnover ratio (.78), 10th in offensive rebounding (8.22), 9th in FT% (53%) and 8th in FG% (41%).
Despite ranking 9th in 3FG% at 31.9%, the Hawkeyes rely heavily on the triple try hitting 6.78 per game making them dangerous if the shots are falling from long range.
KEY PLAYERS: Junior guard Tony Freeman continues to lead Iowa in scoring at 15.1 ppg and 3 point accuracy (41%) but he's also turnover prone averaging 3.5 my-bad's per game. Freeman scored a game high 21 points against OSU last time out.
6'6" senior Justin Johnson is having a solid season averaging 13 points and 4.8 boards per game after averaging just 5.4 and 2.3 as a junior. Johnson led Iowa with 14 points against Purdue behind 4 threes giving him a team high 66 triples on the season.
Rounding out the perimeter contributors are Jake Kelly (6.4 ppg / 40% 3FG) and freshman Jeff Peterson (6.1 ppg). Peterson hit for 19 against PSU on a perfect night in which he shot 4/4 FG and 9/9 at the stripe.
6'8" Cyrus Tate (6.1ppg, 4.4 reb), 7'0" Vandalia product Seth Gorney (4.8 reb) and 6'10" senior Kurt Looby (5.9 reb) carry the load along the baseline.
NOTES: Iowa has won the last 3 versus Ohio State in Iowa City but they're just 2-2 at home in conference play thus far...Dating back to 1915, Iowa is 46-19 against the Buckeyes at home.
BUCKEYE BREAKDOWN: The Buckeyes are currently one game back in the conference standings and while this a road game, it's one the Buckeyes must win if they plan on dancing in March. Obviously, there's some concern about whether or not this group will come out overconfident based on the first matchup and the amount of youth on the floor but that excuse should no longer be acceptable considering we're 21 games into the season.
Iowa has some height, but its kinda wussified so Matta might look to get the ball inside to Othello Hunter early on. That certainly seemed to be the plan last time around as the Buckeyes outscored the Hawkeyes 20-4 in the paint in the first half leading to a 45-17 cushion.
Defensively, I expect to see a little more of the 2-2-1 press tonight considering Iowa's turnover problems. OSU forced 14 Iowa miscues last time out and the Hawkeyes obviously haven't improved in that area considering they had more turnovers than field goals against Purdue.
KEY PLAYERS: Jamar Butler continues to lead OSU in nearly every offensive category and he's been on fire the last 2 games totaling 47 points on 15/26 shooting while handing out 15 assists. He had just 8 points against Iowa in Columbus but he played just 21 minutes due to the flu and still managed to drop 9 dimes.
It's no secret I think Butler is the conference MVP and tonight will be another chance to showcase why. He's been unstoppable on the road in conference scoring 20, 21, 26 and 32 points while averaging 6 assists. Those are sick numbers and they've been sorely needed as some of his teammates have looked lost on the road.
Evan Turner is one of those mates who hasn't been as strong in conference road games but he did have his best outing of the season against Penn State. Turner scored just 5 points but added 7 boards and 7 assists as he continues to polish his versatile game.
Joining Butler and Turner on the perimeter is the enigmatic David Lighty. The sophomore from Cleveland shot just 3/10 against PSU but committed only 2 turnovers after giving it away 10 times in the previous two tilts. Lighty should come in with some confidence based on his 14 point (6/8 FG) 1 turnover performance against Iowa.
If the Buckeyes do make an effort to go inside, it will be up to Hunter to finish. Othello comes into tonight's game averaging 9.3 points and he's hit double figures just once in the last 6 games. That said, I don't think it's a matter of whether or not he's capable. The simple fact is the guards simply don't look inside enough limiting the touches of all the big men. Looking at the numbers, Hunter has attempted only 13 shots in the last 3 games.
Fellow frontliner "Softa" Koufos comes in averaging 13.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game reaching double figures in the last 4 games while averaging a little over 5 boards. He put up 10 and 5 against PSU which equaled the scoring output of human highlight reel reserve Matt Terwilliger. Da Wig was big against the Lions going 3/3 from the floor with 0 turnovers in 19 minutes.
NOTES: Butler is 3rd nationally shooting 93% (55/59) from the line...The Buckeyes are holding opponents to 37.1% shooting, good for 4th in the country...Matta is just 4 wins shy of 100 at Ohio State.