The Turning Point
By Tony Gerdeman
Each possession more crucial than the
next, the Buckeyes had just turned it over for only the fifth time of
the night. Spartan point guard Kalin Lucas brought the ball up with
13:50 remaining in the game, his team down just 45-44. Michigan
State was looking to regain the lead.
Defensive stopper Aaron Craft was
applying the defensive pressure, and Lucas was looking to get rid of the ball.
He had Durrell Summers coming around a screen, but he double-clutched
his pass, and when he finally released the ball, William Buford was
there with a timely right hand.
Buford poked the ball away and outraced
Lucas and Summers to the rim for the easy layup. The scoreboard read
47-44 for Ohio State. The Buckeyes
had just matched their largest lead of the half at a whopping three
had the steal,” said Thad Matta, reliving the most crucial
possession of the game. “I thought we were able to push up a
little bit and get into them and force situations to turn it over a
the lead came the crowd, and with the crowd came the momentum—because
on the very next possession, the Buckeyes did it again. Aaron Craft
grabbed one of his four steals for the game and ran down the court intending to score.
Yes, he got his shot blocked, but Jon Diebler was right there to grab
the rebound and get fouled on the putback. After Diebler made his
two free throws, the Buckeyes led by five points. It was their
largest lead of the game.
that point on, the Ohio State aggression was evident everywhere. Of
Ohio State's 29 free throws, 17 of them came after William Buford's
steal. Of the Buckeyes' nine steals, five of them happened over the
game's final 14 minutes.
Buckeyes scored in this game, and all six scored during this pivotal
stretch. Every player was involved. There were no decoys. Nobody
lost interest. It was five guys at a time playing as one unit.
it all started with Buford's steal. It was the turning point. From
a one-point lead to a six-point lead in under two minutes. The
Buckeyes turned up the heat in all facets, and they were rewarded
because of it.
was very focused going into the game,” said Matta,
referring to Buford.
“He had a good look in his eye. He made a
couple shots early and got rolling. I think Will is a terrific
player. But the biggest thing tonight was his defense. I thought he
did a great job defending and trailing screens. He was very active.
He looked pretty strong all the way through.”
it wasn't just a spurt of a few minutes for the Buckeyes. No, it
lasted for the rest of the game. Ohio State never relented, even on
will ever forget Garrick Sherman's wayward throw
from his own baseline into the backcourt? The Spartans simply
watched the ball go bounding. Aaron Craft, however, had designs of
his own. Instead of simply being satisfied with a 58-53 lead with
under six minutes to play, he tore after that loose ball, gathered it
up and laid it in, and got fouled for good measure. A free throw
later and the Buckeyes were suddenly up by eight points with 5:51 to
Because simply watching a turnover wasn't good enough for Craft.
That ball was his, and nobody was going to keep it from him.
was a heck of a play and a sign of someone wanting to win no matter
what,” said Diebler of the play. “Aaron doesn’t take plays off
and that one led to a big bucket for us.”
was unquestionably the play of the night, but the game had already
turned by that point. The Buckeyes would go on to take a
twelve-point lead before eventually winning by ten points, 71-61.
at no point in the evening did this game ever feel like a ten-point
contest. Michigan State had answers all night long. But the answers
began to come fewer and farther between following William Buford's
steal and layup with 13:37 to play.
turned for the Buckeyes following that steal. The clouds began to part,
and the sun began to shine. It may have only counted as two
points in the box score, but it was worth so much more.
Game Play by Play
Season Stats Year to Date
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