Iowa trailed by 15 points with nearly 15 minutes gone at Ohio State on Wednesday. Iowa was two steps slow on defense, couldn’t find a shot against the Buckeyes’ zone and faced a party crowd.
With the game appearing more like last year’s 31-point loss than a great comeback, Iowa’s Matt Gatens and Devan Bawinkel shot the Hawkeyes back into it.
Bawinkel, who finished the game with 15 points, started the rally with a 3-pointer. Then Gatens took over. Gatens scored Iowa’s next eight points on a pair of 3-pointers and a jumper. Iowa cut the lead to five before falling by eight at halftime.
“After the first 10 minutes it was a well-played game on our part,” Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said.
The second half brought eight lead changes and four ties. Gatens, who scored a career-high 22 points, watched his last-second shot fell short and Iowa lost its Big Ten opener 68-65.
“To our guys’ credit in the second half, we didn’t play perfect by any means, but there wasn’t the same approach and we responded better,” Lickliter said. “We were much more competitive.”
Iowa was tenacious at both ends in the second half and hit shot after shot. The Hawkeyes hit 62 percent from the field.
Lickliter entered his postgame news conference with a snarl but kept his humor. As Lickliter was introduced, it was mentioned that Iowa’s 14 3-pointers were one short of tying the team record. To that Lickliter replied, “We were one 3 short of tying the game also. And we were two short of winning it.”
Ohio State guard Jon Diebler scored 27 points. An Ohio State scribe pointed out that he had been struggling before the game. Lickliter scoffed and said, “Well, we fixed that.”
Iowa’s Big Ten record would remain the same whether they lost by 31 like last year at Columbus or 3 like this year. But Iowa fans have to love the response of a young team playing its first league game on the road. It was against a ranked opponent and down by 15 points. Iowa battled back and nearly won. It should give fans hope that Iowa basketball will be competitive once again. It certainly gives Lickliter hope.
“I thought in the first half we were kind of hoping that things would go our way,” Lickliter said. “Then we realized if we were going to get something going, we were going to try to make it happen. So I thought our response was much better in the second half. It was just not good enough.”