College Basketball fans got a heavy dose of everything a great tournament game entails Sunday afternoon, as Aaron Craft hit a timely last second jumper from the wing to give Ohio State a 78-75 win over Iowa State.
It was everything that basketball fans were expecting. An Iowa State team that was dangerous from three point territory, solid on offensive rebounds and scoring in bunches. They were faced with solid defensive intensity, forced turnovers, and a willingness to take what the defense was giving up.
In the first half, there were 7 lead changes and 10 points where the game was tied. Iowa State out rebounded Ohio State 23-12. The Buckeyes forced 9 Cyclone turnovers.
And like every great tournament game, for everything expected — there was an equal surprise on the floor for each team.
Unfortunately the surprises for each team weren’t all positive.
Iowa State would play the whole second half without Chris Babb, their defensive stopper. Korie Lucious, despite having 19 Points on 5/7 shooting from three, turned the ball over 5 times. Despite trying to shut down the Buckeye offense by forcing shots from the outside in the 2-3 Zone, Ohio State nailed shots.
Yet Fred Hoiberg’s crew were able to frustrate a team that is very good at protecting the basketball.
The Buckeyes were forced into three straight turnovers nearly halfway through the second half. After having just two in the first half, Ohio State struggled to get any edge inside. With Melvin Ejim going to work, the Cyclones would cut the lead to one with 11:46 to play. After a beautiful dish from Ejim led to a Georges Niang dunk, Ejim would get the ball back off his own miss on the next possession and throw it down off another turnover.
A six point lead was cut to one with twelve minutes to play, but Aaron Craft found Deshaun Thomas in the corner after a kick out on a drive to the basketfor a huge three with a hand in his face to give Ohio State a 55-51 lead.
Then arguably the biggest surprise of the game took center stage.
The LaQuinton Ross show.
After scoring 7 points off the bench in the second half, LaQuinton Ross became an instant factor with less then ten minutes to go. Entering for the first time in the second half, Ross got to the basket on a Deshaun Thomas steal. Then he would out do it with a beautiful look for three the next time down the floor.
In three minutes, the sophomore would score 10 points and give Ohio State their first double digit lead of the ballgame. A drive to the basket would give LQR two made free throws, and the sharpshooter would end the five minute encore with a dagger for three with 8:20 seconds to play.
Ross would finish with 17 points on 6/10 shooting.
But just when everyone thought the encore had hit it’s climax, like in any good flick, the plot took a quick turn in the last five minutes.
Down 13, Iowa State went on a 10-0 run capped by a huge Tyrus McGee three. Korie Lucious would then drive to the basket on a missed free throw from Aaron Craft and get the hoop and the harm. With less than three minutes to go, the former Michigan State Spartan in his 13th tournament game, evened it up at 69 with a clutch free throw.
On the other end, Deshaun Thomas called for the ball from the low block and drew the foul. He would give the Buckeyes a two point lead with his huge free throws.
That still couldn’t stop the hot streak of Tyrus McGee, who nailed a three to give Iowa State a one point lead. After a turnover forced, McGee went to the line and nailed two free throws to make it a two point lead at 73-71.
Aaron Craft would answer with a drive off the elbow with a spin back to the lane. After getting past his defender, Craft blew through the paint and drew the foul on the made bucket to tie it. He’d hit nothing but net to give Ohio State a one point lead.
On the next defensive set, Craft would swat the ball to mid court away from the intended ball handler. A foul would be called on Shannon Scott on his attempt to reach in on the floor for the basketball. Tyrus McGee would drain two free throws to give Iowa State a one point lead with less than two minutes to go.
After a walk call on LaQuinton Ross and an offensive foul on Iowa State, Craft got to the line and made one of his two attempts to tie it up at 75.
Deshaun Thomas would deny the entry pass with 45 seconds to go. On the other side of the floor, Aaron Craft would get an open look from the top of the key but couldn’t drain it. on the tip/rebound attempt the ball went out of bounds on the baseline in favor of Ohio State.
After the timeout, with 30 seconds to go, Craft got the basketball on the inbound from the baseline at half court and held on for the last shot. With 8 seconds to go, Craft got the switch and hit the winning jumper from the wing with the power forward Georges Niang covering him. He drained it to give the Buckeyes the 78-75 with .5 seconds to go. The junior guard would finish with 18 points and 6 assists and 7/11 shooting from the free throw line. Including some clutch ones in the second half.
The key cog for Ohio State’s offense was Deshaun Thomas. Whether it was inside or with the jump shot against the zone defense, the Tank showed up for battle today. He also set a milestone by becoming the second all-time leading scorer in OSU tournament history. He finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals.
Up next for the Buckeyes will be a match up with with Arizona on Thursday in Los Angeles with a chance to advance to the elite 8.