When Ohio State played at Iowa on Jan. 4, the Hawkeyes proved a much tougher test for the Buckeyes than expected. OSU trailed at halftime of that game before escaping with just a five-point win.
The second time around, however, was much less dramatic.
Led by senior David Lighty and 40 minutes of stifling defense, No. 1 OSU (19-0, 6-0 Big Ten) routed Iowa, 70-48, Wednesday.
“It was our game plan to come in and play defense for 40 minutes,” Lighty said. “It’s something that we haven’t been doing lately and it’s something that we’ve been keying on.
“This week in practice it was just preparing to play real Ohio State defense and I think we came out and did it today.”
Lighty finished the game with 18 points and five rebounds and became just the third player in OSU history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists in his career. The only two other Buckeyes to accomplish the feat were Jim Jackson and Evan Turner.
The first half began with senior Dallas Lauderdale scoring seven of the Buckeyes’ first 12 points. Lauderdale, who has struggled since the start of conference play nearly three weeks ago, hadn’t scored more than six points against any Big Ten team this season and had been held scoreless twice in the last five games before scoring nine points Wednesday.
Lauderdale put in two dunks to go along with a three-point play in the first six minutes, giving OSU an early 12-4 lead. Although Lauderdale picked up his second foul with 10 minutes remaining in the half, coach Thad Matta said he was pleased with the way his starting center played on both ends of the floor.
“I thought he was good,” Matta said. “He was active on the glass and picked up a couple fouls there in the first half, but that’s the level we need him at.”
Early on in conference play, the Buckeyes had made a habit of getting big leads, only to squander them away down the stretch. In the second half against the Hawkeyes, however, OSU did no such thing. The Buckeyes led by as many as 23 before completing the 22-point victory, holding the Hawkeyes to their lowest point total of the season.
“When we feel good about our defense, we’re a great team and it’s going to be even harder to beat us,” Lighty said. “We have so many weapons offensively, and when we tie our defense with that there’s really not too many holes that we have in our game.”
Junior William Buford scored 15 points, and freshman Jared Sullinger scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Freshman Aaron Craft, who scored a career-high 19 points in the Buckeyes’ last game, scored just three points, but his defense suffocated the Hawkeyes all night. His seven steals were a tie for second most in a game in OSU history and the most for a freshman.
“That’s a team stat,” Craft said. “Everyone is in the gaps, putting pressure on the ball and just putting indecision in the ball-handler’s mind. I just happened to get the stat tonight.”
The Buckeyes’ 19-0 start is the best of any OSU team under Matta, and the school’s best since the 1961-62 Buckeyes began the season 22-0.
OSU’s next matchup will be against the No. 23 Fighting Illini at noon Saturday in Champaign, Ill.