Craft lifts Ohio State into Sweet 16
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
DAYTON, Ohio — Somebody had to buck the trend – might as well be the Buckeyes.
The Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 seeds in the West region of the NCAA tournament had all already been knocked out of the field by the time Ohio State took the court Sunday afternoon at UD Arena. A No. 2 seed in another region – Georgetown – had already lost, too.
Ohio State flirted with the idea for awhile, for most of the game actually. With the game tied and the clock winding down, Buckeyes point guard Aaron Craft had the ball. He dribbled out the clock as his teammates cleared out to the left. Craft had uncharacteristically struggled for most of the second half with turnovers and missed key free throws, as well as a jump shot on the team’s second-to-last possession.
With less than a second left, Craft pulled up and swished the game-winning three-pointer. Ohio State won 78-75 and will advance play in the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles. Craft finished with 18. Deshaun Thomas led the Buckeyes with 22.
“I hope someday they put a statue of him out in front of our building of him,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said after the game on CBS. “What a big-time shot.”
The Cyclones played the entire second half without senior guard Chris Babb, who left the game with a sprained ankle late in the first half.
Ohio State players said after the game that the play was originally drawn up for Deshaun Thomas, but Craft waved him off after he realized Georges Niang, Iowa State’s big man, was guarding him. Thomas said he probably would have been mad about not getting the ball in past years, but he’s grown up and “it’s all good.”
“The moment is definitely bigger than me,” Craft said. “As a team, we did a great job down the stretch finding a way to hold on. It just happened to be in my hands at the end of the game. Once you see it go in, the first thing I think of is how much time is left? … [For more on Aaron Craft's buzzer-beater clips Iowa State, lifts Ohio State into Sweet 16, click here.]