COLUMBUS, Ohio — Melsahn Basabe was in no mood to celebrate a valiant, yet futile comeback attempt in a 72-63 loss at No. 14 Ohio State on Tuesday night.
The Hawkeyes trailed by 24 points with 12 minutes, 49 seconds left in the game, then chipped away at the Buckeyes until the deficit reached four with 1:30 remaining. All of that mattered little to Basabe, an Iowa junior forward, who’s sick of losing close games and tired of his team not matching the intensity of its opponent.
“We have a good enough team, and we definitely thought we should have beat this team,” Basabe said. “To me it’s an opportunity lost because we were being soft and not because they beat us, not because they just shut us down or because they had more talent than us.
“When you lose games being soft, that’s unacceptable.”
Iowa (13-6, 2-4 Big Ten) was soft offensively near the basket, getting shots blocked nine times. Iowa was soft at times on the perimeter, giving up 14 turnovers with only eight assists. Iowa definitely was soft at the free-throw line, missing 13 and making 13.
Soft at Ohio State (14-4, 4-2 Big Ten) means another Iowa loss to a program that has dominated the Hawkeyes in recent years. The win was a record eighth straight in the series for Ohio State, and the Buckeyes lead 76-75 all-time.
Basabe often saves his best performances for the Buckeyes, as demonstrated by a 22-point, 13-rebound, six-block effort two years ago. He grabbed 10 rebounds Tuesday and scored seven points. He helped spearhead an attack on the boards, where Iowa out-rebounded Ohio State 40-34. The Hawkeyes even snagged 22 offensive rebounds.
But that’s not enough — not near enough — for Basabe.
“It’s just disappointing that we lost this game,” he said. “We had a good enough team to win. We gave them trouble with different things, but we had different stretches where we were playing soft. They were the more physical team, and that’s why they came out with the win.”
Iowa stayed with Ohio State for most of the first half and trailed by six with 58 seconds left after Basabe scored inside. Then the Buckeyes lit up Iowa 6-0 flurry, including four points in the final five seconds, to send the Hawkeyes into the locker room staggering down 12.
Ohio State continued to rip Iowa apart in a 17-4 run. With 12:49 left, Ohio State led 53-29 and was in control. Iowa, however, was not about to give up.
Iowa attacked the rim, found open shots and got to the free-throw line. Zach McCabe ignited a 20-4 Iowa run with seven straight points. Anthony Clemmons scored a pair of baskets. Eric May knocked down a 3-pointer.
After the teams traded shots and Ohio State led by nine with 3:15 to play, Devyn Marble sank two free throws and Aaron White hit an off-balance jumper to pull Iowa within five points. Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft was called for an offensive foul on the Buckeyes’ next possession, and White got to the free-throw line and made one of two to trim Iowa’s deficit to 63-59.
Craft then was fouled and made the first of two free throws. Before he attempted his second, Ohio State’s Evan Ravenel left his spot early was called for a lane violation. Iowa had the ball, down five with 1:02 left.
On perhaps the game’s key possession, Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas stripped Iowa guard Mike Gesell, who promptly fouled Thomas. Thomas, the Big Ten scoring leader, sank both free throws and pushed Ohio State’s lead to seven points and out of reach for Iowa.
Basabe wasn’t the only player angered by the defeat. Marble liked the team’s spirit but was more irritated by the deficit than the rally.
“It’s more of a negative that we even put ourselves in that hole,” Marble said. “That’s going to be tough to come back on any team in the Big Ten, especially when you’re not at home. That would definitely be the negative. I’ll be looking at that more than the positive.”