Johnson Powers Hawkeyes Past Buckeyes

IOWA CITY — On a night in which the University of Iowa celebrated its 25th year in Carver Hawkeye Arena, the men’s basketball team defeated Ohio State 53-48 to improve to 11-12 and 4-6 in Big Ten play. With the loss, the Buckeyes fall to 15-7 overall and 6-3 in the conference.

“There’s a lot of lessons to be learned in athletics,” Iowa coach Todd Lickliter said. “When we went over there, we really weren’t in the game. We could have been deflated but I think we responded well. For the most part we were poised and patient.”

Both coaching staffs wore sneakers with their suits to help support the American Cancer Society and the Coaches versus Cancer program and both coaching staffs watched Iowa’s Justin Johnson give a monumental performance with 24 points, three assists and seven rebounds. All of Johnson’s points came from behind the three-point line. His eight three-point shots were one off the school record and he has hit that mark twice this season.

“He did a tremendous job,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “He hit some big shots.”

“He’s shown over and over that he’s capable of making those shots,” Lickliter said. “Shot selection is the most important part.”

Iowa also got a strong performance from senior Seth Gorney. Gorney chipped in 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

“We wanted to show today that we weren’t going to back down from anybody,” Gorney said. “I’m trying to play my best right now. I want to leave it all on the court.”

The Hawkeyes shot 43.2 percent for the game (19-44) including 11-25 from three-point land. Iowa also moved the ball well, having 16 team assists. The Hawkeyes held Ohio State to only 3-21 from behind the arc.

“They did a great job of moving the ball,” Matta said. “We didn’t make shots.”

“I’m proud of our guys,” said Lickliter. “Today we were much more focused. We need our defense to be a team.”

Iowa used a strong performance from behind the arc in the first half to stay ahead of the Buckeyes. Johnson led the Hawkeyes in the half with 12 points, coming from four three-point buckets. Johnson was 4-of-7 for the half with all of his shot attempts coming from behind the arc.

Iowa started the game with two buzzer-beaters to beat the shot clock by Tony Freeman and Jake Kelly but fell behind early 7-4 to Ohio State. The Hawkeyes then got back-to-back three-point baskets from Freeman and Johnson and back-to-back jumpers from Gorney to cap a quick 10-0 run resulting in a 14-7 lead.

Ohio State was led in the half by guards Jamar Butler and David Lighty scoring a combined 12 points. A jumper by Butler and a three-pointer from Lighty pulled the Buckeyes to within one 17-16.

Johnson would hit two more three-pointers and Freeman and Gorney each knocked down a shot to push the Iowa lead to five at halftime 27-22.

Iowa got big three-pointers from Jake Kelly and Jeff Peterson to start the second half, pushing Iowa’s lead to 35-28. Kelly finished with five points while Peterson scored three and had three assists.

Butler finished with 11 points, four assists and five rebounds for the Buckeyes. Lighty added nine and Kosta Koufos scored 10 and grabbed seven rebounds. The Buckeyes kept feeding Koufos inside, allowing them to cut the lead to 46-42, but it was Johnson’s four second-half three-pointers that kept the Hawkeyes on top.

The Hawkeyes led by three 49-46 with just inside five minutes to play and both teams went cold until inside one minute when Freeman got fouled and made two clutch free-throws to give Iowa a five point lead 51-46. The lead pushed to seven (53-46) after Cyrus Tate also made two free-throws with 26 seconds left in the game. Ohio State got a late layup from Othello Hunter but it was to no avail as the Hawkeyes grabbed a 53-48 victory.

Iowa entertain Wisconsin at home at 8:05 p.m. on February 6 in Carver Hawkeye Arena. Tickets to that game are available.