Rapid Reaction: Ohio State 95, Iona 70
March, 22, 2013
By Eamonn Brennan | ESPN.com
DAYTON, Ohio -- Quick reaction to No. 2 Ohio State's 95-70 blowout of No. 15 Iona:
Overview: Iona entered the tournament as an interesting potential upset candidate, a very efficient, up-tempo offensive group with an experienced scoring star in Arizona transfer Lamont "MoMo" Jones. If everything went well, maybe Iona would get hot from deep, maybe make the game a track meet, and maybe (just maybe!) catch the Buckeyes off guard.
Not so much. Instead, Aaron Craft and the same brutal Buckeyes defense that shut down some of nation's best in the final weeks of the Big Ten season did the same against the Gaels, opening up a 27-8 lead in the first 11 minutes of the game. To Iona's credit, the Gaels didn't go all the way away -- they closed the lead to just six in the final minutes of the first half, and had the margin down to just 10 at halftime. But Ohio State only racheted up the pressure in the second half, eventually extending its lead into unreachable territory and finishing with a 25-point win in its NCAA tournament opener.
Turning point: After Iona caught up with the Buckeyes in the final minutes of the first half, it looked as if the Gaels had recovered from their initial surprise at OSU's pressure and might be able to keep the pace the rest of the way. But Ohio State ripped off a 9-0 run to open the second half, building its lead back out to 52-33, and the game was never close again.
Key player: Deshaun Thomas was his typically brilliant offensive self, scoring 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. But the real difference-maker -- and what has given Ohio State its edge in recent weeks -- is the supporting scoring of Sam Thompson, who finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds and a rousing standing ovation from the collected Ohio State fans. Sometimes the secondary scoring comes from Craft, sometimes it comes from Thompson, but as long it is there, Ohio State has an excellent chance to advance deep into the field.
Key stat: Iona averaged 37.3 percent from 3 (and 45.7 percent inside the arc) this season, when they were one of the 20 most efficient offenses in the country. On Friday, Ohio State held the Gaels to just 6-of-28 from beyond the arc.
What's next: Ohio State (27-7) advances and will play the winner of No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Iowa State; Iona ends its season with a second consecutive tournament appearance and a 20-14 record.