COLUMBUS, Ohio -- You'd have to go back three years to find a time that the Ohio State basketball team lost consecutive games in a single season. And after a 59-56 defeat at the hands of Michigan State on Saturday, the 14th-ranked Buckeyes (14-4, 4-2) made sure that streak stayed intact on Tuesday, with a 72-63 win over Iowa (13-6, 2-4).
"A win is a win in conference play," OSU guard Aaron Craft said. "That was a big win for us to try to keep us in the hunt. We still have a lot of basketball to play. We've got to protect homecourt and yeah, we didn't do it in the prettiest way, we didn't finish the way we probably wanted to, but we got the win."
Deshaun Thomas led the way for Ohio State, scoring 16 points in an effort that brought his streak of five consecutive games of scoring 20 or more points to an end. But in true Big Ten fashion, the Buckeyes won their latest battle ugly and with defense.
Collectively, OSU held the Hawkeyes to just 35.5 percent shooting on Tuesday night, allowing them to connect on 22-of-62 shots. The Buckeyes stifled Iowa for the first 36 minutes of Tuesday night's contest, with no Hawkeye scoring more than 13 points against them.
Individually, the effort was there too.
It started less than six minutes into the game, when Craft plucked the ball away from Iowa's Aaron White. The steal was the 205th of Craft's college career, setting a new school record just past the midway point of his junior season.
"It's a great honor and a great accomplishment," Craft said. "We have a lot more important things to worry about than individual awards."
Amir Williams also got in on the defensive action against the Hawkeyes. The sophomore center recorded six blocked shots on Tuesday night, but also failed to record a rebound in 17 minutes of action.
"Six blocks, that's an accomplishment for me, but I've got to put that in the back of my mind now and try to get seven or eight and try to get seven or eight rebounds next game," Williams said. "I'm better than having zero rebounds in a game."
One defensive statistic that the Buckeyes didn't dominate against Iowa was rebounding. The Hawkeyes outmanned OSU by a 40-34 margin on the boards, with 22 of those rebounds coming on the offensive end of the floor for Iowa.
"You're playing hard, you're playing great defense, but you've got to finish the play with a defensive rebound," OSU coach Thad Matta said. "We just didn't do that."
After Iowa jumped out to a 13-12 lead to open the game, the Buckeyes closed the first half on a 22-9 run to take a 34-22 lead into halftime. OSU's momentum carried into the second half, where it extended its advantage to 24 points with 12:48 remaining in the game.
The Buckeyes couldn't hold on to their large lead, however, as Iowa slowly chipped away. A 46.7 percent shooting performance in the second half helped the Hawkeyes come close to bridging the gap, and brought them within four points of OSU with just 1:29 remaining in the game.
"We just started not executing our offense and they were making a lot of shots, a lot of plays," Craft said. "You've got to find a way to make plays at the end."
The Buckeyes managed to pull away, closing the night on an 8-4 run to seal the victory, but still drew the ire of their head coach, who was less than pleased with his team's 14 second half turnovers and Iowa's 26 free throw attempts.
"We just weren't as sharp and crisp as we needed to be," Matta said. "We were putting them at the line- that to me was the big thing."
A game back of a shared lead of the Big Ten, Ohio State will return to action on Saturday, when they'll travel to State College, Pa. for a 12 p.m. tipoff with Penn State (8-10, 0-6).