Men's hoops aims to complete regular season sweep of Ohio State


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The Hawkeyes’ Jan. 12 win on the road against Ohio State served as a marker, a statement that the hype surrounding Iowa basketball was deserved. The Buckeyes were the No. 3 team in the country at the time, and the game opened nonbelievers’ eyes to the potential of this team.

Ohio State has struggled since, though, losing three of five games while averaging just 61.2 points per game during that stretch.

But the Buckeyes are coming off a road win over Wisconsin. And there’s no doubt they’ll give Iowa everything they have, knowing the Hawkeyes have a chance to complete the regular-season sweep this evening.

“You have to come out with even more intensity and better focus,” senior guard Devyn Marble said about playing an opponent the second time. “They’re going to want to get that win back. They lost on their home court; I know that left a sour taste in their mouth.

“They’re definitely going to come in here with the motivation and hunger to beat us on our home court … They’re just as hungry as we are to get a win.”

Marble lit up the score sheet in Iowa’s win over Ohio State in January. The Southland, Mich., native scored 22 points to go along with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.

Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross gave Iowa trouble when the two squads last met, scoring 22 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. And, Ross has scored in double figures in 12 of his last 13 games.

“He’s a terrific jump shooter; he’s got a versatile game,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “He’s got enough size to post up. He’s got a little in-between game, the shot-fake driving, you know, he’s able to shoot the ball at crunch time. He makes his free throws. He gets to the free-throw line.

“He’s just one of the many guys in our league that is really talented offensively, and you’ve got to pay attention to him.”

Both teams are coming off road victories. And today’s game is crucial in terms of seeding for the Big Ten Tournament. Even though the Buckeyes have struggled in conference (4-5), a win against Iowa would pull them within just one game of the Hawkeyes.

With Michigan scheduled to visit Carver on Saturday, the importance of today’s game is magnified even more. But McCaffery wants players to view this week’s games through the same lens that they would for any other set of games.

“No different than any other game on our schedule,” McCaffery said. “Obviously, we have tremendous respect for Thad Matta and Ohio State. Saturday is Saturday, we play here, and that’s a whole other topic. But it wouldn’t matter if we were playing Ohio State or any other team in this league. The evidence is there to look at it.”

Having a business-like attitude towards Iowa’s next two opponents is something McCaffery would obviously want from his players. And the fourth-year head coach cited the array of upsets and road victories in the Big Ten as reason for that.

But players recognize the importance of Iowa’s next two games. And if Iowa hopes to secure a top 4 seed and a first round bye in the daunting Big Ten Tournament, they ought to.

“Every game’s important, but if you look at who’s behind us and who’s in front of us, these are the tough games coming up,” Iowa center Gabriel Olaseni said. “We have a week off after Saturday, so we definitely have to really focus on these next two and try to get two Ws.”

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