Columbus, Ohio — Nerves. Duez Henderson had them. So did his teammates and new Iowa basketball coach Steve Alford.
The Hawkeyes opened the 1999-2000 season against top-ranked and defending national champion Connecticut in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
“There were a lot of unknowns going in,’’ Henderson said. “Coach Alford was actually in the hospital a few days before the game. Turned out it was nothing but nerves. That kind of put us at ease, knowing he was that nervous.’’
The Hawkeyes then went out and stunned Connecticut, 70-68.
“Something that I’ll always remember,’’ said Henderson, who started, scored five points and grabbed six rebounds in the victory.
Iowa plays No. 1 for the 21st time in school history Wednesday at Value City Arena. Ohio State, 18-0 and one of three undefeated teams remaining, replaced Duke as the nation’s No.1 team on Monday.
“As I told my wife, it doesn’t score you any points or get you any rebounds in a game,’’ Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “You’ve got to go out and play.’’
Iowa has knocked off No. 1 twice. The Hawkeyes also beat top-ranked UCLA, 87-82, at Chicago Stadium on Jan. 29, 1965.
This will be Iowa’s first game against No. 1 since the 2005 season. Illinois was No. 1 when it beat the Hawkeyes in Champaign, Ill., 73-68 in overtime, and in Iowa City,
Wednesday will mark Iowa’s fourth game against a No. 1 Ohio State team and first since 1962, and the Hawkeyes will be a decided underdog. Iowa needs to win to avoid the first 0-6 start in Big Ten play in school history. Five of those games will have been against rated teams. The Hawkeyes are 7-10 overall.
“Coming into the season, Ohio State felt like it had a chance to be one of the elite teams and make a run to the Final Four, and they’re played that way,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Every night out, they’re getting everyone’s best.’’
This isn’t the first time McCaffery has faced the nation’s top-ranked team as a coach. After his Siena team beat Ohio State in double overtime in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament, the Saints lost to No. 1 Louisville, 79-72.
The Buckeyes are No. 1 this week because they’ve been able to survive four straight close games.
“We want to be playing our best basketball as the season continues,’’ Matta said. “I think that’s probably the biggest challenge for us right now, getting the guys to understand that.’’
Each of Ohio State’s last four games have been decided by five points or less, including a 73-68 victory at Iowa on Jan. 4.
“They’ve shown an incredible ability to win tight games, and to make the plays necessary to win those close games,’’ McCaffery said.
Iowa’s Eric May didn’t play against the Buckeyes two weeks ago because of a groin injury.
“This is a great opportunity for us,’’ May said. “I was upset I didn’t get to play against them when they were No. 2. Now I’ll get them as No. 1.’’
===== WEDNESDAY'S GAME =====
WHO: Iowa (7-10 overall, 0-5 Big Ten) at Ohio State (18-0, 5-0)
WHERE: Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio.
TIPOFF: 5:30 p.m.
TV/ RADIO: Big Ten Network/Hawkeye Network including WHO-AM (1040), D.M.
STATISTICAL LEADERS: For Iowa — Matt Gatens 13.2 ppg, Melsahn Basabe 7.0 rpg, Bryce Cartwright 4.6 apg; for Ohio State — Jared Sullinger 17.6 ppg, Sullinger 9.9 rpg, Aaron Craft 4.9 apg.
ABOUT THE HAWKEYES: Minnesota (69-59) was the first team to beat Iowa this season while scoring less than 70 points.
ABOUT THE BUCKEYES: Craft was named Big Ten freshman of the week Monday.
WHAT TO WATCH: Ohio State is shooting 50.1 percent from the field, and 40.6 from 3, this season. Iowa’s Big Ten foes are shooting 53.5 percent from the field and 45.8 percent from 3.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball