January 13, 2014

Breaking it down: Iowa

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After back-to-back losses to Iowa and Michigan State, Ohio State dropped to No. 11 in this week's Associated Press poll. The Buckeyes -- which started the season 15-0 -- find themselves floundering a bit as conference play begins to boil.

Of course, it's not even mid-January and losses to the Hawkeyes and Spartans don't knock Ohio State out of the rat race for Big Ten championship. The way the Buckeyes have dropped said contests, though, might be somewhat alarming. Here's what we learned from Sunday's 84-74 loss to Iowa.

The turnovers, oh my

Perhaps of chief concern for Ohio State is the 38 times it's turned the ball over in its last two games -- 21 times against Michigan State and 17 times against the Hawkeyes. If the Buckeyes can't get a grip (pun intended) on ball control, other struggles they're having -- such as consistent scoring and even defense as of late -- will be magnified considerably.

"We knew they were gonna press, knew they were gonna do what they did and we just weren't ready to take care of the ball," senior guard Aaron Craft, who had six turnovers against the Hawkeyes Sunday.

"There comes a point where you just gotta make smart decisions and do what you need to do to protect the ball and we're not doing that."

And until Ohio State can start doing that, expect them to struggle in a conference that'll make them pay dearly for such miscues and sloppiness.

"We played some really good basketball, so did Iowa, they're a great team. But it's that consistency and understanding what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, how it needs to be done and, a lot of times, it's connecting the dots in terms of passing, catching," coach Thad Matta said.

"A couple of them were probably out of aggressiveness but which I can live with those type of turnovers but just the errant passes. We knew not to throw the ball to a certain area against a certain defense and we did and we turn it over. That's the thinking of the game. We gotta do a better job with a veteran team."

Where's the defense?

I'm not ready to sell Ohio State's defense as a product of crappy competition but it's clear the Buckeyes have struggled against arguably its two best opponents so far this season (and, to be sure, the road will not get any easier either.) They surrendered 84 points to Iowa and 72 to Michigan State including overtime, which easily hurdled Ohio State's average allowance of 57.6 a contest. I think that 17 games in, it's pretty clear the backbone of the Buckeyes is their defense and Matta and company will readily -- and eagerly -- admit that.

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