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Friday, March 22, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Ohio State 95, Iona 70

By Kieran Darcy

What it means: Iona was simply overmatched.

The No. 15-seeded Gaels gave it their best shot Friday night against No. 2 Ohio State, playing very close to home in Dayton. In a battle between one of the highest-scoring teams in the country and one of the best defensive teams in the country, defense ruled the day.

Iona (20-14, 11-7 MAAC), after some time to heal, should feel good about making the NCAA tournament two years in a row.

Ohio State (27-7, 13-5 Big Ten) hopes this is just the first step toward a second consecutive Final Four.

The turning point: It was a wild first half. Iona jumped in front 4-0, but that didn't last long. Ohio State went on a 27-4 run from there, capped off by a Deshaun Thomas trey, to make it 27-8 with 9:27 remaining. The Gaels rallied to get within four, 37-33, on a fast-break layup by Tre Bowman with 1:38 left. Then the Buckeyes scored the final six points to make it 43-33 at intermission.

Ohio State scored the first nine points of the second half to extend the lead to 19 again, 52-33, and Iona had no answer this time around. The Buckeyes' advantages in terms of size and athleticism eventually overwhelmed the Gaels -- Ohio State had several highlight reel-worthy alley-oops and dunks. The Buckeyes eventually pushed the lead to as much as 30, turning the game into a total rout. The final few minutes were nothing but garbage time.

Star watch: Iona guard Lamont "Momo" Jones, third in the country in scoring (23 ppg), had a very rough night. Jones shot 3-for-15 from the field, 1-for-9 from beyond the arc, and finished with just nine points. Tavon Sledge scored a team-high 20, but many of his points came in the final meaningless minutes. Sean Armand scored 17 points, and David Laury had 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists before fouling out with 10:36 to play.

Thomas scored a game-high 24 points for Ohio State, and Sam Thompson had a monster double-double -- 20 points, 10 rebounds. Aaron Craft scored just four points, but had seven assists and seven steals.

Number crunch: Iona was second in the country in points per game (80.7), but shot just 35.4 percent from the field (23-for-65) and 21.8 percent from 3-point range (6-for-28). Ohio State, on the other hand, shot 47.9 percent from the field (34-for-71), 46.7 percent from 3-point range (7-for-15), and had 25 assists on its 34 field goals.

What's next: Ohio State will play the winner of No. 7 seed Notre Dame versus No. 10 seed Iowa State.

Iona returns home to New Rochelle. Jones, a senior, has played his final game for the Gaels. But Armand is a junior, and Laury a sophomore. The question is, could coach Tim Cluess be a candidate for open jobs at bigger programs after leading Iona to back-to-back Big Dances? It's a definite possibility.