COLUMBUS — Iowa coach Fran McCaffery is coming back from a one-game banishment.
It remains to be seen if No. 3 Ohio State’s swagger also returns after its first loss of the season.
“There’s two ways we can go,” Buckeyes defensive dervish Aaron Craft said. “Obviously, we want to try to win every game and we’re a competitive group. But the worst thing we can do is turn that loss into two.”
McCaffery’s Big Ten-mandated suspension for his blow-up with the officials in a loss at No. 4 Wisconsin on Sunday is behind him. He’ll be on the sideline when the 20th-ranked Hawkeyes travel to play the Buckeyes this afternoon.
Iowa (13-3, 2-1) has already rebounded from that loss to the Badgers, taking it out on Northwestern 93-67 on Thursday.
Soon after that game ended, assistant Kirk Speraw, who filled in for McCaffery, said the Hawkeyes had their work cut out for them when they take on the Buckeyes (15-1, 2-1).
“We need a lot of things in Columbus,” he said. “We need great defense, taking good care of the basketball, shooting the ball well, rebounding the ball well. I mean, that’s one of the better teams in the country, obviously, and so it’s just another step in our journey down the Big Ten schedule.”
The Hawkeyes were clinging to the lead against the Badgers in Madison on Sunday when McCaffery was hit with two technicals. He stormed after the officials, briefly making contact with one. In the wake of that 75-71 loss, the Big Ten decreed he sit out a game.
“I lost my cool, and you can’t do that,” he said in apologizing later. “My passion and energy come from a good place. I want my players to play that way.”
At the same time, a lot of eyes will be trained on the Buckeyes to see if they can bounce back after a 72-68 overtime defeat at No. 5 Michigan State on Tuesday night.
Ohio State’s players and coach Thad Matta realize they cannot afford a second straight slip.
Matta was reminded that a year ago the Buckeyes were in the thick of the Big Ten race in early February when they lost (in overtime) at another school from the state up north, No. 3 Michigan, 76-74. They returned home and were practically run out of their own gym by No. 1 Indiana, 81-68.
“I mean, Indiana was No. 1 in the country at the time. And Iowa is kind of ...,” Matta hesitated.
When a reporter said, “Good?” he smiled and continued.
“Yeah. That’s just something we addressed in terms of an overtime loss on the road. You’re coming home and things don’t get solved just because you’re in your own building. You’ve got to man up and go out and play again.”
The Buckeyes trailed by 17 points with just over seven minutes left but had a chance to pull off a magical win in the final seconds in East Lansing on Tuesday. Shannon Scott stole the ball in the Spartans backcourt and was fighting the clock and a defender as he drove the length of the court. He was bumped and the ball came loose and he missed as time expired.
Scott said the Buckeyes haven’t forgotten about those back-to-back losses a season ago.
“We know what we did last year after we lost to Michigan and didn’t come back playing strong against Indiana,” he said. “We have that in the back of our heads right now. We have had great practices. We’re going to be able to keep focus and be ready to play against Iowa.”
WHO: No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 20 Iowa
TIME: 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: Value City Arena, Columbus
TV/RADIO: Channel 19; WEOL 930-AM, WKNR 850-AM