Iowa took another step toward being considered a national contender this season in college basketball.
Roy Devin Marble scored 22 points, Aaron White added 19 and the 20th-ranked Hawkeyes ended the game on a 22-9 run to hand No. 3 Ohio State its second loss of the week, 84-74.
It was a watershed game for a program that has fallen short in big games continually over the past several years.
“This is the biggest one,” said Marble, a senior who has been on the front line of the Hawkeyes’ fits and starts lately. “It’s the most important one. Now, to have done this, this is the biggest one — thus far.”
They did it by playing their best when they have frequently buckled — with the game on the line in the closing minutes. Three times this season they had top 10 teams down by double digits but couldn’t close the deal.
Not this time.
“We’ve proven all year long that we’re one of the top teams,” said White, who stuck it to the biggest powerhouse in his home state. “This finally puts it on our resume to signify that. We’ve been up on teams that are highly ranked, but we’ve lost those games down the stretch by not making key plays. I’m really happy, because that’s all we’ve been stressing, the 40-minute game and playing to win. And that’s what we did.”
Melsahn Besabe had 11 points and 10 rebounds, Mike Gesell added 11 points and Jarrod Uthoff had 10 off the bench for the Hawkeyes (14-3, 3-1 Big Ten), who ended a string of eight straight losses to the Buckeyes.
They did it on coach Fran McCaffery’s return to the sideline. He had been suspended by the Big Ten for one game after angrily confronting the officials at last Sunday’s 75-71 loss at No. 4 Wisconsin. He sat out Thursday night’s 93-67 rout of Northwestern, with assistant Kirk Speraw filling in for him.
“What’s interesting about that, the way our guys handled that whole thing, was incredibly businesslike,” McCaffery said. “They were just like, ‘Here we go. Business as usual.'”
How big was the win? It erased several ugly marks the Hawkeyes had been carrying around for years.
It was Iowa’s first win over a top 5 team since an 83-65 victory at No. 2 Missouri on Dec. 15, 2001.
Iowa was 0-2 on opponents’ home courts this season coming in. Their three losses have come against teams with a combined 45-2 record (Villanova, Iowa State and Wisconsin) — with each loss coming by five or fewer points.
The Hawkeyes had not beaten Ohio State — one of the Big Ten’s bullies since Thad Matta came aboard a decade ago — since 2008. They hadn’t beaten the Buckeyes in Columbus since 2004, making a long, quiet flight home on the last seven trips.