With both of its losses -- including its Big Ten road opener -- coming in hostile environments, Ohio State has every reason to be wary of a trip to Iowa City.
Iowa's recent play should only make the sixth-ranked Buckeyes more cautious.Ohio State tries to extend its astounding winning streak over unranked opponents to 57 on Saturday against the Hawkeyes, who return home brimming with confidence after a pair of impressive road victories.The Buckeyes (14-2, 2-1) didn't have Jared Sullinger available during a 78-67 loss at then-No. 13 Kansas on Dec. 10, but they couldn't use that as an excuse for last Saturday's 74-70 defeat at then-No. 13 Indiana.Sullinger was limited to 15 points in 29 minutes while battling foul trouble, but bounced back Tuesday against Nebraska. The preseason All-American had 19 points and 12 rebounds in 27 minutes before getting some rest in a 71-40 rout of the Cornhuskers.Ohio State held Nebraska to 30.8 percent shooting and dominated the battle of the boards 44-21."Better now than later, but it was a life lesson," Sullinger said of the loss to the Hoosiers. "We gave up 17 layups against Indiana and they got whatever shot they wanted in the second half. As you can see, we turned up our defensive intensity in this game. We were just ready to play basketball."Rarely have the Buckeyes been unprepared for a lesser opponent the past two years. The Nebraska win was Ohio State's 56th straight against teams outside the Top 25, the nation's longest such streak and one that dates back to a loss at Minnesota on Jan. 9, 2010.Four of their six consecutive victories against Iowa (10-6, 2-1) have come during that stretch, but visits to Iowa City in recent years have generally been tight for the Buckeyes. Five of their last six road games against the Hawkeyes have been decided by five points or fewer, with the lone exception a 65-57 win two years ago.Sullinger had 10 of his 24 points in the first 6:30 after halftime Jan. 4, 2011, at Iowa, leading Ohio State back from a six-point deficit to a 73-68 victory.That Hawkeyes team won only four conference games, a mark they're already halfway to matching this season. After opening Big Ten play with a home loss to Purdue, Iowa stunned Wisconsin 72-65 on Dec. 31 and took down Minnesota 64-62 on Wednesday behind 19 points from senior guard Matt Gatens."We refocused immediately after we beat Wisconsin," coach Fran McCaffery said. "We didn't allow that game to distract us. A lot of the things we did in that game to be successful, we did (at Minnesota)."Iowa has won five of six largely by holding onto the basketball. It's averaged just 10.5 turnovers in that stretch, a number it'll need to keep down against an Ohio State team that leads the Big Ten in forcing 18.0 per game.The Hawkeyes may have one omen in their favor. They're 2-12 at home against ranked teams since 2007, but the victories both came against, at the time, the nation's sixth-ranked team.Iowa should have a better chance if Melsahn Basabe can continue his strong play against the Buckeyes. The sophomore forward, who went scoreless Wednesday after averaging 14.0 points over his previous six contests, had 22 points, 13 boards and six blocks in nearly helping the Hawkeyes knock off Ohio State last year in Iowa City.McCaffery thinks his team will be ready Saturday."It should be a great atmosphere," he said. "We want to take everything we have -- focus, concentration, execution, great bench play -- but our guys are ready."