By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — On Sunday, it was a late run. On Thursday, it was a fast start.
The 20th-ranked University of Iowa men’s basketball team led from the outset Thursday, and by as many as 19 points in the first half, during an 85-76 win over No. 25/24 Ohio State in front of 14,001 on Mediacom Court in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes (19-8 overall, 10-6 Big Ten) scored the final 11 points Feb. 16 to defeat Minnesota, 58-55. They scored the first six — and 18 of the first 21 — against the Buckeyes (17-9, 7-8), who lost for just the second time in their last seven games.
Iowa junior Luka Garza scored a game-high 24 points, making 9 of 15 from the field. Also scoring in double figures for the Hawkeyes were senior Bakari Evelyn (15), sophomore Joe Wieskamp (13), and senior Ryan Kriener (12). After going six straight games without scoring in double figures, Kriener has done so in back-to-back outings.
The Hawkeyes shot 62 percent from the field in the first half (18 of 29) and 56 percent for the game (29 of 52).
Ohio State was led by freshman E.J. Liddell with 17 points and six rebounds.
QUOTING COACH McCAFFERY
“Any time you’re playing a quality team like Ohio State — a ranked team at home, you want to get off to a good start and it starts with your defense. As much as we were up 18-3, it was great that we were scoring the ball, and it was really the result of our defensive intensity and execution. Execution is critical on defense, too, not just on offense.”
STATISTIC OF THE GAME
Before the Buckeyes made their second field goal, Iowa led 18-3 by making 7 of 10 field goals (3 of 4 from 3-point range).
“The first five minutes was the difference,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “We could never climb back and get it to two possessions. We got close a couple times, we just couldn’t get it done. Give (Iowa) credit.”
Five Hawkeyes contributed the first 18 points, including Garza, who had five.
“We have had a couple games in a row where we have had really good starts to the game, Nebraska, Minnesota, here, and even Indiana,” Garza said. “We have had a big focus of being able to deliver the first punch and we did that tonight.”
Only two Hawkeyes came off the bench, but Evelyn and junior Cordell Pemsl combined for 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field.
“Those two were spectacular,” McCaffery said. “Cordell and Bakari were phenomenal. We don’t win the game without them. They did it at both ends — Cordell has eight rebounds and nine points, Bakari was hitting 3s, driving the ball and making good decisions.”
Iowa has won nine of its last 12 games, dating back to Jan. 10.
The win was Iowa’s sixth over a nationally-ranked opponent, its most in a single-season since 2006 (eight).
The Hawkeyes have won 10 or more Big Ten games five of the last six seasons.
Iowa and Ohio State have played 162 games all-time, the series is now tied, 81-81.
Garza scored 20-or-more points for the 12th consecutive game, the longest streak by a Hawkeye in 49 years, and longest streak by a Big Ten player in more than 20 seasons.
The Hawkeyes return to action Tuesday against Michigan State (18-9, 10-6) in the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan. Tip-off is 6 p.m. (CT). It is the only regular season meeting between the teams.
OHIO STATE-IOWA PHOTO GALLERY