Ohio State’s Aaron Craft almost cost the Buckeyes a trip to the Sweet 16 with his uncharacteristically sloppy play in the second half, but he redeemed himself by nailing a three-point jumper with .5 seconds left to give No. 2 Ohio State a 78-75 win over No. 7 Iowa State in the West Regional on Sunday in Dayton, Ohio.
After Ohio State retained possession when Iowa State failed to secure a rebound on a Craft miss with less than 40 seconds to play, Craft calmly waved off DeShaun Thomas and rose above Iowa State’s Georges Niang to drill the three pointer. Craft, for good measure, blocked Iowa State’s last-second desperation attempt to tie the game.
Indeed they were. With Iowa State leading by one, Will Clyburn drove and made a shot that appeared to give the Cyclones a three-point lead. But the official called a charging foul on Clyburn even though it appeared that Craft should have been called for a block–a call that completely altered the game.
Ohio State will now face Arizona in the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles, California on Thursday.
Craft’s shot was redemption for Ohio State’s spiritual leader, who had struggled for much of the second half. He missed two straight front ends of a one-and-one and allowed Iowa State to come back in the game. Craft also missed two layups and turned the ball over two other times, as the Cyclones stormed back after they were down by double digits.
“We took their best punch,” Craft said after the game. “I think we can do a great job sticking together … We’re not playing perfect, but we’re helping each other out.”
This is the fourth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance for Ohio State.
The Cyclones played the game short-handed because Chris Babb rolled an ankle in the first half and did not play in the second half.
Iowa State’s ability to spread the floor presented challenges for Ohio State’s vaunted defense and Aaron Craft, arguably college basketball’s best on-the-ball defender, and the game was a back-and-forth affair with 15 lead changes.
The Buckeyes will face Arizona, a team clicking on all cylinders that Matta said was out west this season. This is the third devastating loss for the Cyclones, who lost two games against Kansas this year that they should have won. Those games were also marred by questionable officiating.