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Iowa rallies past Ohio State, 74-72

The Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa finally did what it has failed to do so many times this season - hold a lead down the stretch.

The Hawkeyes (18-10, 6-9 Big Ten) rallied in the second half, took their first lead with eight minutes to go and got a game-winning basket from Jeff Horner in the final seconds to beat Ohio State 74-72 Wednesday.

In four Big Ten games, the Hawkeyes held leads late, only to see everything slip away when they failed to hit key shots, avoid costly turnovers or make plays defensively.

But Horner swished an 18-foot jumper with 3.4 seconds on the clock, capping a 25-point performance and keeping alive the Hawkeyes' slim NCAA tournament hopes.

''In the last four minutes of a lot of games, we've just crumbled,'' said Horner, who was 9-of-17 from the floor, including four 3-pointers, and eight assists. ''We stuck together in those last four minutes, and everybody did their thing and we got it done.

''We called time-out and I went over to coach and I told him, 'I want the ball.' We set up the play and kind of deviated from it. But that shot was there, so I took it,'' Horner said.

Iowa's victory offset a sparkling performance by Terence Dials. The junior center led Ohio State (18-11, 7-8) with 29 points, tying a career best, on 12-of-17 shooting.

Dials, who also had eight rebounds, seemingly had an answer for every defensive trick and gimmick Iowa had in its bag. The Hawkeyes tried fronting him, shadowing him with taller defenders and pestering him with double and triple teams - all to no avail.

''He (Dials) was a handful,'' said Iowa coach Steve Alford. ''He's probably the most dominant low-post player in our league … and was a real load for us tonight.''

Iowa also got 22 points from Adam Haluska and 10 rebounds from Greg Brunner, who fouled out in the final minutes with just four points.

Ohio State also got 13 points from Ivan Harris and 10 from Matt Sylvester.

The Hawkeyes led by as many as six points down the stretch, but the Buckeyes tied it at 66 when Sylvester hit the second of two free throws with 1:55 left.

Haluska and Sylvester then traded 3-pointers, knotting the score at 69. On Iowa's next possession, Doug Thomas scored on a dunk when Horner dished him a nifty bounce pass in traffic. Thomas hit the ensuing free throw, giving Iowa a 72-69 lead.

But Dials answered on the other end, hitting a turnaround jumper and the ensuing foul shot with 27 seconds left to set up Horner's last-second heroics.

The Buckeyes had one more opportunity, but Jamar Butler stepped out of bounds near midcourt with one second left, giving Iowa its fourth victory in its last six games against the Buckeyes.

''We really struggled down the stretch,'' said Buckeye coach Thad Matta, who must now prepare to face top-ranked Illinois Sunday. ''We just couldn't find answers for Horner and Haluska.''

The Buckeyes shot 53.8 percent, while Iowa shot 47.2 percent in a game that had 13 ties and five lead changes. The difference for Iowa came at the free throw line, where the Hawkeyes shot 85 percent compared to 64.3 percent for Ohio State.

The Buckeyes grabbed the early lead, but Iowa got back into the game by pressuring the Buckeyes defensively and pushing the ball up court on nearly every possession.

Down by nine, Iowa responded with a 14-5 run and tied the game at 20 when Horner, who had 12 first-half points, stepped in front of a pass, drove the court for a layup and hit the ensuing foul shot.

The teams tied and traded leads several times over the next five minutes before Dials took control in the low post. Dials scored eight of Ohio State's final 12 points in the first half and his dunk with 2:14 to go put the Buckeyes ahead 35-31.

The Hawkeyes closed the lead to one when reserve senior Jack Brownlee nailed a 3-pointer, only his second of the season, just before the buzzer.