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After stifling Iona, Ohio State’s defense in need of similar effort against Iowa State

Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor

DAYTON, Ohio – Lamont “Momo” Jones walked off the University of Dayton Arena floor Friday night with a towel draped over his head, sheltering himself from an array of insults raining down from the sea of Ohio State fans in attendance.

Thursday, the outspoken senior guard said he and No. 15-seeded Iona expected to beat the No. 2-seeded Buckeyes. Friday evening, Jones and the Gaels were shellacked, 95-70, by OSU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Dayton.

With the win, OSU is set to take on No. 10 seed Iowa State, who beat No. 7 seed Notre Dame, Sunday at 12:15 p.m.

Jones, who said he didn’t expect to have a problem with the Buckeyes’ pressure defense, finished with nine points on 3 of 14 shooting.

“I mean, give credit where credit is due. I think (junior guard Aaron Craft) played good defense. I think I took some bad shots. Things just didn’t fall tonight,” Jones said.

OSU held the nation’s second-leading scoring team to 35 percent shooting and a 6 of 28 mark from the 3-point line. Iona, which likes to get out and run, was outscored in transition, 34-11. A significant portion of the Gaels points came with the game already in hand and OSU’s starters sitting on the bench.

“We played our defense. These guys are known to get out and run and put up a lot of points, but they’re not playing nobody. They played against us, a real defense, and obviously nothing happened for them,” said junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr.

Craft had six steals for OSU, including one that forced the rosy-cheeked floor leader to jump out of bounds, slam into a media table, and tap the ball back in-bounds to sophomore forward Sam Thompson. Redshirt senior forward Evan Ravenel and Thompson also recorded steals in the win.

Iona’s two leading scorers, Jones and junior guard Sean Armand, were a combined 8-for-31 from the field.

“Their two top players, I don’t know what they finished with, they shot a lot of times and they didn’t make much. Our defensive pressure frustrated them the whole game,” Smith said.

OSU’s physicality on the defensive end seemed to frustrate a smaller Gaels squad.

“Those guys, they looked like they workout every day. They’re a lot more physical than us. They just played hard throughout the whole game,” said sophomore guard Tavon Sledge.

Iona’s coach, Tim Cluess, thought Craft might have gotten away with things his players didn’t.

“I think he gets away with body blocking you, grabbing you, holding you, but he’s in very good position to do that, and he plays great angles,” Cluess said. “He has a passion to stop people, which most players today don’t have.”

Iona got out to a solid start, taking a 6-5 lead early, before OSU raced to a 27-8 lead. The Gaels didn’t go away quietly, cutting the Buckeyes’ lead to 37-33 near the end of the first half. OSU ended the game’s opening act on a 6-0 run, highlighted by a one-handed alley-oop jam from Thompson, and pulled away in the second half.

Junior forward Deshaun Thomas, who led OSU with 24 points on 8 of 12 shooting, said the defense his team displayed Friday could carry them deep into the tournament.

To continue on their trek back to the Final Four, the Buckeyes will have get past the Cyclones Sunday.

Iowa State dispatched the Fighting Irish easily, 76-58, in their opening NCAA Tournament game. Freshman forward Georges Niang had 19 points in the win. The Cyclones made nine 3-pointers and shot nearly 50 percent from the field.

OSU’s defense will be tested by a potent Iowa State attack that is fourth in the country in scoring at 79.6 points per game.

Saturday, OSU coach Thad Matta said the Cyclones style of play reminds him of Michigan, Duke and Kansas, all of which are high seeds in the NCAA Tournament and still alive.

As long as the Buckeyes have a similar defensive effort Sunday to the one put forth against Iona Friday, however, Thomas is confident OSU will advance to the Sweet 16.

“If we keep playing our defense like we’re supposed to, we’re going to make it to the promised land,” Thomas said.  

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