COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said Friday that he thought the Iowa basketball team was playing as well as any team in the Big Ten.
He was being kind. And modest.
The best team in the Big Ten right now is the one that Holtmann coaches.
His 14th-ranked Buckeyes followed up a dramatic midweek road win over Purdue by thumping Iowa at Value City Arena on Saturday, getting balanced scoring and limiting the Hawkeyes’ big guns on the way to an 82-64 victory that puts Ohio State in control of the Big Ten race.
With Purdue losing again Saturday to Michigan State, the Buckeyes are now alone at the top of the standings at 13-1, 22-5 overall.
Holtmann admitted to being concerned about how his team would respond to the emotional win over Purdue, but the Buckeyes methodically took apart the Hawkeyes over the course of the last 30 minutes.
"All week we talked about how are we going to respond to an emotional win like that, and I think we bounced back well from that," freshman center Kaleb Wesson said in a postgame television interview.
Wesson led the way with 18 points as the Buckeyes shot 52.7 percent from the field.
Big Ten scoring leader Keita Bates-Diop was held to 14 points, but he added eight rebounds and four assists. C.J. Jackson also netted 14 with Jae-Sean Tate adding 11 in addition to playing the major role defensively on Iowa’s leading scorer, Tyler Cook.
Cook was held to just eight points, his lowest total since Jan. 7, and the Hawkeyes also got just 11 points from Jordan Bohannon. Freshman Jack Nunge led Iowa with a career-high 18.
The Hawkeyes (12-15 overall, 3-11 Big Ten) only led for a few minutes in the game, opening an 18-15 first-half lead after Bohannon spearheaded a 7-0 scoring run.
But they then turned the ball over three straight times, and Ohio State took advantage to go on an 8-0 run of its own.
The Buckeyes gradually added to the lead for the remainder of the half and had a 42-32 margin at the break.
"We had some defensive lapses in the first half, and they took advantage of that," Holtmann said. "You saw what they can do in the second half against Michigan State (on Tuesday, in a 96-93 loss). We had to tighten up defensively."
The Buckeyes did just that, shutting down the Hawkeyes over a four-minute stretch and scoring 14 straight points to up their lead to 58-36 just five minutes into the second half.
"We scored first in the second half to cut it to eight, but they went on a run and got it to 18 pretty quickly after that," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "As much as anything, it was bad offense by us. Good defense by them. They were up into us, but I didn’t think we moved the ball, I didn’t think we executed, and they got some transition opportunities.
The deficit eventually went as high as 29 (76-47).
McCaffery said the play of Nunge was unquestionably the highlight for his team. The 6-foot-11 freshman had scored just 21 points in the nine previous games and had not scored in double figures since Dec. 10, but McCaffery said he has seen him make great progress recently in practice.
"He was aggressive, he was physical," he said. "They came after him, and he’s been doing that lately. They put smaller, quicker guys underneath him, and he got low and was strong and tough, and he made big shots, made plays in traffic."