Iowa hangs on to edge Ohio State 79-77 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena
Senior guard Tony Perkins scores at least 20 points for fifth straight game
By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – This was an early February Big Ten meat-grinder that neither team could afford to lose, and Iowa senior guard Tony Perkins was ready for the challenge.
The Indianapolis native continued his solid all-around play by stuffing the stat sheet with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists in Iowa’s 79-77 victory on Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
With Friday’s victory, Iowa improved to 13-9 overall and 5-6 in the Big Ten, while the Buckeyes fell to 13-9 and 3-8.
Iowa now has five days off with a game against Penn State up next on Thursday in State College, Pennsylvania.
The Hawkeyes already have lost three Big Ten games at home this season to Michigan, Purdue and Maryland, and they also entered Friday’s game two games below .500 in league play.
So, obviously this was a must-win in which Perkins and his cohorts rose to the occasion.
Perkins has now scored at least 20 points in five straight games.
“His game continues to mature,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of the 6-foot-4 Perkins. “When he first got here, he was a junkyard dog and that’s what we loved about him and that’s why we recruited him. He’s a fearless guy.”
Perkins was among four Iowa players that scored in double figures in Friday’s victory. Payton Sandfort and Josh Dix both finished with 15 points, while senior forward Patrick McCaffery had 10 points off the bench.
Patrick McCaffery also made all eight of his free throw attempts, including four straight in the final 21.2 seconds of the game that helped to secure win.
This has been a tough season for Patrick McCaffery as he has been slowed by an ankle injury, and he also battled with an illness earlier in the season.
“It feels good,” Patrick McCaffery said. “I’m a confident jump shooter, confident foul shooter. I knew when I stepped up to the line that I was going to make them. And I did, and I’m glad we won.”
When told what his son said about knowing that he would make the free throws, Fran McCaffery said:
“I felt pretty confident. I’m glad he knew. I wish he would have told me.”
Iowa was leading 71-69 when Perkins made two free throws with 2:06 left to play.
Perkins made another free throw to give Iowa a 74-71 lead with 1:30 remaining.
Iowa then caught a huge break when Ohio State center Felix Okpara was called for double-dribble with 24 seconds remaining, and with the Buckeyes trailing, 74-73.
Patrick McCaffery’s four free throws in the final seconds, along with one made free by Payton Sandfort would prove to be enough.
“Luckily, we made five out of six (free throws),” Fran McCaffery said. “I’m really proud of those guys, Patrick and Payton.”
While most of the statistics were pretty even in Friday’s game, Iowa had a 17-0 advantage in transition points and also shot 54.7 percent from the field, including 58.3 percent in the second half.
“We still couldn’t get that big stop coming down the stretch or that big rebound,” Payton Sandfort said. “But we did enough and made enough plays to get it done.
“And you know, that’s a big win. That’s a big win.”
The first half ended with Iowa trailing 38-36 and with the fans booing the officials as they left the court.
Fans were upset about what they felt were two missed calls by the officials in the final seconds of the first half.
The first play in dispute was an inbounds pass by Ohio State from near mid-court in which the official ruled was touched by an Ohio State player near the baseline on Ohio State’s end of the court.
So, instead of gaining possession on its side of the court, Iowa had to inbound the ball on the far baseline.
Patrick McCaffery threw a pass the length of the court that Payton Sandfort caught near the Iowa baseline. Sandfort appeared to absorb some contact as he attempted to shoot, but no foul was called, much to the dismay of fans.
Iowa shot 52 percent from the field in the first half, while Ohio State shot 50 percent from the field.
Iowa had 16 rebounds in the first half, while Ohio State had 15.
The Buckeyes did have a 26-18 advantage in points in the paint in the first half and they also made five shots from 3-point range while Iowa made just 2-of-7 threes in the opening half.
But that was about the only separation between the two teams from a statistical standpoint in the first half.
Payton Sandfort and Ben Krikke made back-to-back baskets to give Iowa a 51-48 lead.
That little spurt helped to energize the fans, and it also led to Ohio State calling a timeout with 14:08 left to play.
It was as if Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann sensed that Iowa was about to make a run, so he tried to quell the rally by calling a timeout.
The score remained close the rest of the way, but Iowa made enough free throws with the game on the line to escape with the much-needed win.