Craft and Scott Key in OSU Win in Bloomington
By Brandon Castel
Sam Thompson got things going on Tuesday night and Deshaun Thomas sank a pair of clutch free throws to give Ohio State it’s first victory over a top-2 team on the road in more than 25 years.
It came at the expense of Tom Crean and No. 2-ranked Indiana on Senior Day in Bloomington. Thomas finished with 18 points back in the state where he was once the toast of the town as Mr. Basketball, but this victory goes to Aaron Craft.
With a nice assist from Shannon Scott.
Ohio State’s dynamic duo finally played the way head coach Thad Matta had dreamt they could at the beginning of the year. That’s when he made the bold proclamation that Scott, not Craft, would be the most disruptive backcourt player in the country.
They are aren’t exactly going to start calling him Nostradamus in Columbus, but Matta’s prognostication came to full bloom on Tuesday night, just when the Buckeyes needed something to turn the tides.
That something turned out to be a healthy dose of Aaron Craft, who played maybe his best game of the season in Ohio State’s 67-58 win at Indiana. The junior point guard scored 15 points. He grabbed four rebounds, dished out four assists and came up with four steals.
He also hit a huge basket on a hesitation move against Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Victory Oladipo. Craft’s bankshot gave the Buckeyes a 64-55 lead with 1:39 to play, but Craft was equally impressive at the defensive end.
He always is.
It can’t all be attributed to the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten, but Craft helped to limit Oladipo to just seven points in 25 minutes of action. He turned the ball over and fouled out on a night where the Hoosiers could have used the kind of performance he put on in Columbus just a few weeks ago.
The junior out of Maryland scored a career-high 26 points in that game, which he dominated from start to finish. The Hoosiers won, 81-68, to stake their claim as the top team in college basketball.
If they’re still in that conversation, then Ohio State proved once and for all it can play with anyone in the country. The Buckeyes have also shown they can lose to just about anyone in the country, but not when Craft plays the way he did Tuesday night.
And especially not when they get a boost from not only Thompson and Scott, but also Evan Ravenel and LaQuinton Ross. Ravenel gave then eight points and six rebounds off the bench in place of a largely ineffective Amir Williams, while Ross had two big baskets in the second half.
It was Scott, however, who took over the game defensively down the stretch. He finished with four steals in 22 minutes, but it felt like he was just taking the ball at will from Indiana in the final 10 minutes of the game.
First he ripped Christian Watford while he wasn’t looking. Scott raced down the floor and drew a foul, hitting both free throws to give OSU a 46-43 lead with 10:28 to play. A few minutes later, he would pickpocket Oladipo, whipping the ball up the floor to Lenzelle Smith Jr., who threw down a two-handed dunk to put Ohio State up by 11 with 3:17 to play.
It felt over, but it wasn’t, not on Senior Night at Assembly Hall. Not with the Hoosiers playing for their first outright Big Ten championship since the 1992-93 season.
Watford quickly canned a three and Cody Zeller tipped in an offensive rebound to cut Ohio State’s lead to seven. Jordan Hulls cut to six on a deep three after Smith made a few key errors, including a missed free throw, missed tip-in and a travel, in the final minute of the game.
Hulls missed his next try, however, and Thomas grabbed the rebound for Ohio State. He calmly sank both free throws and the Buckeyes came away with their biggest win of the season.
Not only was it their third win over a top-3 team this year, but it kept Ohio State alive in the race for a fourth-straight Big Ten title. The Buckeyes will need help, from Michigan of all teams, but they have a chance to tie for the conference crown.
They would need to beat Illinois in Columbus on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), then hope for the Wolverines to finish off Indiana in that afternoon (4 p.m. ET, CBS) in Ann Arbor.
Stranger things have happened.
First Thoughts After a Win over Indiana - by Tony Gerdeman
Buckeyes Spoil Hoosier Senior Day, Stay Alive in B1G Title Hunt - By John Porentas
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