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Diebler, Ohio State survive scare from Iowa

Jan 1, 2009 - 2:40 AM COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- Jon Diebler rediscovered his scoring touch at the right time for Ohio State.

Diebler connected on seven 3-pointers in scoring a career-high 27 points as No. 23 Ohio State overcame a big second half by Iowa for a 68-65 victory in the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams Wednesday.

Freshman William Buford scored 16 points and Evan Turner added 11 for the Buckeyes (10-1, 1-0 Big Ten), who overcame 14 3-pointers from the Hawkeyes.

Diebler also sizzled from outside, going 7-of-10 from the arc to end a shooting slump. The sophomore entered the game making just 5-of-20 shots in his previous three games, including 3-of-15 on 3-pointers.

However, Diebler found his range en route to eclipsing the 20 points he scored in a win over ACC school Miami on December 2.

"I was very proud of the effort by Jon today," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "He (caught) fire in the second half and to his credit he stepped up for us to take the big shots. I thought our guys did an excellent of finding him open and passing at the right time. Great shooters are only as good as their passers."

Earlier on, Iowa was not hitting from long range, falling behind 30-15 with 5:46 remaining before halftime. Yet, the Hawkeyes cut that deficit to 36-28 at the intermission before making the contest very interesting in the second half.

"After the first 10 minutes we played pretty well," Iowa coach Todd Lickliter said. "Our demeanor in the first just was not good. To our guys' credit, even though we didn't play great we competed in the second half."

Freshman Matt Gatens scored 14 of his 22 points after halftime and Devan Bawinkel finished with five 3-pointers for 15 points for Iowa (10-4, 0-1).

The Hawkeyes took their first lead of the game at 48-46 with 11:43 to play on one of Bawinkel's three 3-pointers after the break.

Jake Kelly added a jumper to give Iowa a four-point edge, but Diebler came back with three 3-pointers over the next three-plus minutes, giving Ohio State a 57-55 lead with 7:48 remaining.

Diebler knocked down his seventh and final basket from the arc with 3:49 to play, returning the lead to the Buckeyes at 64-62.

"The guys set great screens for me and I was shooting open shots all day," Diebler said. "Guys like Will (Buford) and Evan (Turner) were penetrating and kicking out to me for open looks."

Kelly answered back with a 3-pointer, but that would be the final lead for Iowa, which missed its final two shots, a free throw and committed two turnovers over the closing 2:44.

Turner made 3-of-4 free throws and Diebler split a pair at the line in the closing moments for Ohio State, which overcame a subpar effort at the stripe (13-of-22) in rebounding from a 76-48 loss to West Virginia on Saturday.

One of those late turnovers for the Hawkeyes came when Buckeyes reserve guard P.J. Hill drew a charge on Kelly with 2:10 left.

The junior played a huge role on the defensive end for Ohio State, even coming up with a key block with 6:28 remaining.

"I thought the energy brought by P.J. was tremendous at the defensive end," Matta said. "I couldn't be happier for him and never flinched when he comes into the game. He goes to work and brings energy to the team and really pumps up the defense. P.J. is committed to the team and is a competitive guy."

Despite their issues late, the Hawkeyes had a chance to tie the game with seven seconds left but Gatens' 3-pointer was off the mark.

Although he could not come through with the game on the line, the 6-5 Gatens had a great start to conference play, shooting 8-of-12 with four 3-pointers and grabbing five rebounds.

"He made some big open shots for us tonight and really played aggressive in the second half," Lickliter said. "For someone who has grown up watching Big Ten basketball, finally experiencing it firsthand must have been eye-opening. To his credit, he responded really well."