Aaron Craft took Ohio State Buckeye fans on a joyride against Iowa State—helping his team take a big second-half lead, practically blowing said lead singlehandedly and then, ultimately, clinching the Round of 32 game on a last-second buzzer beater to prevent overtime.
It was the first true buzzer beater of the tournament. It took three days, but Madness has officially arrived.
The defensive-minded point guard looked like the only Ohio State player who wanted the ball down the stretch—he even waved off prolific scorer Deshaun Thomas (22 points) for the final 3-point shot in a tie ballgame—a strategy that both plagued and saved Ohio State's national championship dreams.
Up 69-59 with 5:35 to go, Craft nearly sent the West’s No. 2 seed home. His play-by-play from there went as follows: turnover, missed layup, missed front end of one-and-one, missed front end of one-and-one, turnover, foul. In that brutal stretch, 10th-seeded Iowa State took the lead (and could have added on to it after a charge call went in favor of Craft) and the junior guard looked like the imminent goat.
But Craft finished with the Buckeyes' final seven points to steal the win, including the buzzer beater to remember, one in which he sized up a Cyclones defender for 32 seconds before pulling the trigger. Shot good. Onions present.
None of those heroics would have been possible if Craft hadn't taken a charge on the other end of the floor with 1:15 left and the Cyclones up 75-74. While Craft's feet were set before Iowa State's Will Clyburn left his feet, it may have been a blocking foul because his right foot appeared to be hovering over the restricted circle.
With the win, Ohio State stayed alive in a West region where only the Nos. 6, 9, 12 and 13 seeds are still alive.
And with the resiliency their floor leader showed Sunday afternoon, coach Thad Matta & Co. have to feel good about their chances going forward.
Aaron Craft walked that shot down, didn't he? Clutch. Great effort by Iowa State.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) March 24, 2013
If your Iowa St, you would rather Craft take that shot, but it shows you what a competitor he is-you have to have a short memory to be a big— Jim Jackson (@BTNJimJackson) March 24, 2013
Tough swallow. Not sure if that rebound didn't go off Thomas. Not sure that was a charge for Craft. But you can't let Craft walk you down— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) March 24, 2013