COLUMBUS — This one may forever be known as “The Justin Ahrens Game.”
Ohio State’s freshman shooting guard lived up to his high school billing and then went well beyond as he led all scorers with a career-high 29 points on the night, 25 of which came in the second half of a 90-70 win for Ohio State (18-10, 8-9) over No. 22 Iowa (21-7, 10-7).
Ahrens was just 1-of-4 shooting in the first half, and 0-for-3 from three-point range. That changed in the second half, where he made 6-of-7 from three and all seven of his free throw attempts. He had a +/- of +31 in 30 minutes of play.
Ahrens was one of five scorers in double figures for Ohio State. Kaleb Wesson scored 18 and had a game-high 11 rebounds.
The win finally gives the Buckeyes a quality win in Big Ten play, as well as a win over a ranked opponent.
Iowa began the game on a 7-0 run as Ohio State missed their first six shots — with the initial five of those coming from three-point range. The Buckeyes eventually woke up and took the lead with a 9-0 run, officially getting this game fully underway.
A three-pointer from Duane Washington broke an 11-11 tie, then following an Iowa layup, an Andre Wesson three and a fast-break basket by Washington made it 19-13 with 9:11 to play in the first half.
Shortly after that, Kaleb Wesson was called for a moving screen, which was his second personal foul. Chris Holtmann was unhappy with the call and was still chatting with the refs about it two minutes later during a timeout. He eventually said something he shouldn’t have and was whistled for a technical foul, which he said after the game that he deserved.
The Hawkeyes tied it back up twice after that, then went on a 7-1 run capped by a three-pointer from Nicholas Baer to make it 31-25 with 3:47 remaining.
As they ended up doing all night, the Buckeyes once again answered an Iowa run with a better one. Ohio State finished the half on an 11-2 sprint that featured four points from Ahrens and a three-pointer from CJ Jackson to make it 36-33 Buckeyes at the half.
Then came the onslaught.
Ahrens’ first three of the second half made it 45-39, but that was answered by a three from Joe Wieskamp, who scored 17 points on the night. CJ Jackson stepped in for a three of his own, then Ahrens added in another to make it 51-42 with 15:27 to play.
Twice Wieskamp drained a three-pointer to make it a 7-point game, and twice Kaleb Wesson responded with a layup to stop any kind of Iowa run.
Ahrens drilled another three at the 9:50 mark to make it 68-54 and send the Value City Arena crowd into an even louder frenzy.
And then he did it again 29 seconds later.
And then he did it again 40 seconds later, but this time by hitting three free throws while being fouled shooting a three-pointer. That gave the Buckeyes an 18-point lead at 74-56.
Two minutes later, however, Iowa had the lead down to 12 points…until Ahrens dropped in another three-pointer with 6:19 to play. The Hawkeyes again edged into the lead, but Iowa’s Connor McCaffery was whistled for a technical foul for questioning a call. Ahrens made both free throws.
Less than one minute later, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery was assessed his own technical foul for arguing a call. Ahrens made both of those free throws as well.
The final Ahrens three-point dagger came with 1:01 remaining to give Ohio State their largest lead of the game at 90-69.
Freshman guard Duane Washington scored all 10 of his points in the first half.
Ohio State outrebounded the Hawkeyes 36-26 and allowed just four offensive rebounds on 29 missed shots.
Well, this is an easy one. Prior to tonight’s game, Justin Ahrens had scored 38 career points this season, so the 29 points in this one was unexpected. However, if he is left as open in upcoming games as he was in this one, this won’t be his last big night. The last time a freshman scored 29 points in a game for the Buckeyes was JaQuan Lyle at Indiana in 2016. This was the first time a Buckeye has scored 25 points in a half against a conference opponent since D’Angelo Russell did it against Minnesota in 2015. Kaleb Wesson did it against non-conference opponent Youngstown State this season.
+ Andre Wesson played 39:56 of a possible 40:00 in this game. Chris Holtmann was surprised to find out that Wesson played so much, then deadpanned that six seconds is plenty of time to catch his breath. Wesson scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds, but played a very good and physical defensive game in the post.
+ Luther Muhammad’s struggles continued as he played just 8:24 and went scoreless, missing both of his field goal attempts. He has now made just 5 of his last 39 field goal attempts.
+ CJ Jackson came off the bench for the Buckeyes and chipped in six points and six assists. He also added some tremendous defense. He had the second-highest +/- of anybody, with a +25.
The Box Score
Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery
Kaleb Wesson and Justin Ahrens