By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The 25th-ranked University of Iowa men’s basketball team literally has a big challenge on its hands Saturday on Mediacom Court.
When the Hawkeyes host No. 16/17 Ohio State at 1:30 p.m. (CT), Iowa will have to contend 6-foot-9, 270-pound forward Kaleb Wesson. The sophomore leads the Buckeyes and ranks 10th in the conference in scoring at 17.1 points per game.
“He’s a big guy,” said junior Tyler Cook. “That is a challenge in itself. He is skilled and he knows how to get his. He can shoot outside and he’s surrounded by a lot of good players. We have to lock into our defensive keys and be ready to guard a lot of action. It’s another day in the office.”
It will be another day in the office for Cook.
After sitting out Wednesday’s road win at Northwestern with knee tightness, Iowa’s leading scorer is expected to play Saturday when the Hawkeyes return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Cook’s knee started tightening a few weeks back and progressively worsened. Prior to the shoot-around in Evanston, Illinois, it was tight, so he sat.
“I woke up that morning and it felt tight,” said Cook. “I tried loosening it up and didn’t feel like I was ready to go. I made the decision and I was lucky they didn’t need me.”
Without Cook, the Hawkeyes rallied from an early second-half deficit to win their first Big Ten road game in nine tries. It was a team effort from freshman Joe Wieskamp’s 18 points to senior Nicholas Baer’s 10 rebounds to Ryan Kriener’s post defense.
“I knew they would play great and be ready to go,” said Cook. “I was impressed in the beginning of the second half when we fell behind a little bit, they kept plugging along and taking care of business and not only got in front, but got the lead to 10 by the end of the game.
“I was impressed with our fight and persistence on both ends of the court.”
Ohio State enters Saturday’s game on a two-game losing streak. After starting the season 12-1, the Buckeyes have dropped back-to-back games — at home to Michigan State (86-77) and Wednesday at Rutgers (64-61).
The Buckeyes are one of the top defensive teams in the Big Ten, limiting opponents to 63.7 points and a 39.3 field goal percentage. Along with Wesson, C.J. Jackson averages double figures, scoring 13.1 points per game.
“It starts with Wesson, he’s a good player, but they defend,” said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. “They have good young players that fit. (Kyle) Young is terrific. C.J. Jackson is a veteran. They have veterans and young guys, speed and quickness, and a low-post game.
“When you put a team together, you have all the pieces you want to fill all the positions you need.”
Junior Jordan Bohannon enters Saturday’s game needing five points to become the third Bohannon brother to reach 1,000 career points. His brother, Matt, scored 1,092 points at Northern Iowa, while Jason finished with 1,170 points at Wisconsin.
“I don’t like to say too much about personal accolades, but it’s special to have brothers like I have and grow up, watch, learn from, and take advice from,” said Bohannon. “There aren’t many people around the country that has had a family like we have had and to be able to do what we have been fortunate to do.
“It has been special and it will be a cool night to get to that club with my family.”
Saturday’s game will be televised nationally on BTN with Brandon Gaudin and Shon Morris on the call. Tickets are available through the Iowa Athletics Ticket Office or at hawkeyesports.com/tickets.