Ohio State hasn’t been bad on the defensive end this season.
Quite the opposite, actually. The Buckeyes are currently sitting in eighth in Kenpom’s defensive efficiency rankings, due in large part to their ability to force turnovers without fouling.
But that doesn’t mean the Buckeyes players were satisfied. They lead the nation in scoring margin, but their last four games have been decided by 15 points. In non-conference play, the Buckeyes were allowing just 38.9% shooting from the field, a number that has climbed to 48.2% during Big Ten play.
“It was funny, in the film session on Monday they kind of said, ‘Hey, looking at the scores we’ve given up, we can play better [defensively] than this,'” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said after the game. “So I told them before the game, ‘You’re the ones who said that, now we’ve got to go out and back it up.'”
They certainly did back it up in their first game as the nation’s No. 1 team, holding Iowa to just 48 points while forcing 22 turnovers in a 70-48 win.
The Buckeyes needed that defense tonight. Ohio State jumped out to an early double digit lead, which grew to 17 by the half. But the Buckeyes certainly weren’t firing on all cylinders offensively. Jared Sullinger was just 6-13 from the floor, finishing with 13 points and nine boards. Sharpshooter Jon Diebler was 1-8 from three. As a team, they were just 6-21 from beyond the arc and turned the ball over 22 times.
This may only be Iowa, who currently sits at the bottom of the Big Ten with an 0-6 league mark, but its a team that nearly knocked off the Buckeyes in Iowa City just two weeks ago.
But Ohio State is not a one-dimensional team.
As they proved tonight, when Ohio State is playing defense up to their standards defensively, they can survive an off-night on the offensive end of the floor.
As a coach, that has to be a comforting feeling.