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It was called Iowa's signature win. The Hawkeyes finally closed out a game against top competition. Things have changed since that contest against then No. 3 Ohio State.
Some luster has come off that 84-74 Iowa win on Jan. 12 in Columbus. The Buckeyes have dropped three of five games since that setback, which included a home loss to double-digit underdog Penn State last week.
%%MATCH_6%% State rebounded from the Nittany Lion upset with a 59-58 triumph at Wisconsin on Saturday. Did it serve as a season-saver for the Buckeyes? They'll get a good indication Tuesday when they travel to Iowa (6 p.m. CT, ESPN).
"The interesting thing about (the Wisconsin) game, considering who they're playing and where they're playing them; you watch the game and Wisconsin is playing pretty well," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "It looks like Wisconsin is going to win. The way that (the Buckeyes) maintained their composure and kind of kept coming and then played better at crunch time is what most people have come to respect from Ohio State teams, a Thad Matta coached team. That's kind of what we're preparing for, a team that understands how to win close games and is obviously a very tough team that's capable of winning on the road."
The Buckeyes (17-5 overall, 4-5 Big Ten) fell out of the national rankings this week for the first time all season. A normally solid defensive bunch, they've struggled to locate consistent scoring, averaging just 67.8 points per game in conference play and have reached 70 just twice in their last seven contests.
"Our whole mindset is we know we have to continue to get better," Ohio State Coach Thad Matta said. "I think our guys completely understand the challenges that lie ahead on a weekly basis in terms of Big Ten basketball. There are obviously ups and down to every season but we've been in a situation in all of the games that we've lost where we've had chances to win them.
"The big thing we're trying to get our guys to understand is what are we doing well; what are we not doing well? Let's build on the things we're doing well and correct the things that we're not."
The No. 17 Hawkeyes (17-5, 6-3) are the only Ohio State opponent to score 80 points this season. They turned the Buckeyes over 17 times and it led to transition baskets.
"One of their top priorities is trying to score quickly and score easily," Matta said. "Getting back and getting your defense set is something that is easier said than done because they're very effective with their transition. But those are the things you have to do if you want to have a chance to win."
For the second week in a row, Iowa plays in a premier time slot on ESPN against a historically successful program. Michigan State escaped Iowa City with a 71-69 overtime win last Tuesday
"I suppose (the Hawkeye players are) aware that it's ESPN as opposed to BTN or something else," McCaffery said. "The respect factor will come more from who we're playing, what they've done this year, what they've done in the past, reputation and how that impacts our season more so than the stage itself."
Iowa last defeated the Buckeyes twice in a season during the 2005-06 campaign. Those wins came in Iowa City and at the Big Ten tournament. The Hawkeyes' last regular-season sweep in the series occurred in '03-04, a year prior to Matta's arrival in Columbus.
McCaffery believes the key to repeating what happened at Ohio State last month will require the same formula.
"We didn't make a lot of mistakes," said the Iowa Coach, whose team committed just 10 turnovers in the first meeting. "We felt like going into that environment, to have a chance to win, you can't make a ton of mistakes. They do a real good job of taking advantage of those mistakes, turnovers, bad shots that turn into baskets. We did a pretty good job taking care of the ball."