Thinking Out Loud on Charge Calls, Onions and The Rosy-Cheeked Assassin
By Brandon Castel
DAYTON, Ohio — There was something about this Iowa State team that had me feeling uneasy for the Buckeyes heading into Sunday. The fact they had five guys who could handle the ball and shoot the three worried me.
Ohio State has some incredible defense, but they tend to be a magnet for lights-out shooting behind the arc. That certainly proved to be true in this one. The Cyclones shot 43 percent from long-range in the first half, and I thought if they did that again in the second half Ohio State would be in trouble.
They shot 55 percent from outside after halftime. They also outrebounded the Buckeyes 36-22, including an overwhelming 12-3 mark at the offensive end. Ohio State countered by forcing 16 turnovers, which they turned into 18 points.
That was the difference in the game, that and Aaron Craft’s clutch three.
Charge is a Charge, Unless it’s Not
No matter how many times CBS, TBS, TNT and any other station they might happen to own shows the “controversial” charge call, it’s never going to convince me Ohio State didn’t deserve to win this game.
Could that have been called a blocking foul? Absolutely. Could basically any charge be called a block, and vice-versa? Almost certainly, but every time they blow up the still shot of Craft’s right foot “hovering” over the restricted line it makes me feel like I’m watching the Zapruder Film.
No matter how many times Kevin Costner says “back and to the left,” it doesn’t actually prove there was a second shooter on the grassy knoll. Of course there had to be (right?), but in this case a referee was asked to make a split-second block/charge call in the final seconds of a tightly-contested, highly-wound NCAA Tournament game.
In typical Aaron Craft
fashion Aaron Craft mixes it up with the Cyclones
Photo by Jim Davidson
The majority of block/charge calls amount to little more than a coin flip as it is, but now we expect this referee to watch Will Clyburn, the ball, Aaron Craft and his heel to make sure it wasn’t hovering over the black line?
Who’s to say his heel even was over the black line? Because it wasn’t actually touching the ground, different angles could create different optical illusions as to whether his foot was over the line or just near it.
I’m not saying we know for certain Craft wasn’t over the restricted area, but I am saying we know for certain there is no way to know for certain whether it was. Even with the instant replay and still photos and slow-motion reruns, we still can’t say with 100 percent accuracy whether it was a block on Craft or a charge on Clyburn.
Aaron Craft interacts with an official.
Photo by Jim Davidson
It’s nonsensical to expect that referee to make the correct call in that situation every single time, especially with all the other easy ones they botched on Sunday afternoon, at both ends of the floor.
What we do know is Aaron Craft got himself in position to get that call, both with his timing and with his reputation. The kid is widely accepted as one of the premier defensive players in all of college basketball. Tell me Victor Oladipo doesn’t get that same call.
In the end, that call was hardly the entire reason Iowa State lost the game. Yes, they could have gone up four with a free throw had Craft been called for the block, but there was still 1:41 left in the game. Iowa State didn’t score another point. They had a pass tipped away by Deshaun Thomas for a steal and knocked a defensive rebound out of bounds after Craft missed his initial jumper from 15 feet.
Rosy Cheeks, Onions the Size of Toledo
Where were you when Aaron Craft hit the shot to save Ohio State’s season? OK, so maybe the Buckeyes would have won in overtime if he had missed that last-second shot, but in this tournament, I wouldn’t want to take my chances.
Especially without Mike Conley Jr.
With that three, Craft joins the likes of Matt Sylvester, Ron Lewis and Evan Turner, among others, in Ohio State lore. Only his might have been the least expected. Sly, Lewis and Turner were all shooters. Turner was a little bit of everything, but he was a dynamic scorer who won National Player of the Year his junior season at Ohio State.
All three of those guys were guys you expected to have the ball at the end. They were shot-takers, and shot-makers. They were clutch scorers with a knack for putting the ball in the basket.
That doesn’t exactly define Aaron Craft, although clutch is somewhere in his makeup, for sure. Even he said he probably imagined himself taking a charge at the buzzer much more often than making the game-winning shot, so it was impressive to see him step up and bury that three like he had been doing it all his life.
Watching it live from my courtside seat, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe Craft took that shot after some of the miscues he made down the stretch. Knowing Craft, it doesn’t surprise he would want a chance to make up for those mistakes by helping his team advance to the Sweet Sixteen, but Craft’s not selfish like that.
He’s not going to clear everyone out and make it a one-on-one game just so he can redeem himself. He’s savvy if he’s anything, and he’s a lot of things. I was surprised to see him take that shot because Deshaun Thomas had been shooting the ball so well, and it looked like LaQuinton Ross might have had a decent look in the right corner.
After seeing the replay, I now completely understand why Craft did what he did. They ran a double screen to get Thomas open, but Melvin Ejim was able to fight through his instead of going under.
Craft’s man, Korie Lucious, did go under the screen by Ross, and it left Ohio State’s point guard one-on-one with center Georges Niang. As Matta said after the game, Niang isn’t exactly fleet of foot, but incase you had any doubts, Thomas was blanketed by Ejim off to Craft’s left.
There’s no doubt in my mind D.T still wanted the ball – he told me as much afterward – and still would have shot it in that situation, even if all five guys were on him, but Craft made a smart play keeping the ball for himself.
His only other real option would have been a quick pass to Ross after he came off the pick on Lucious. It looked like Ross was open for a split second on the right side, and he shot the ball really well on Sunday. Ross is a pure shooter, much more so than Craft, but who do you want taking that last shot? A kid who has played about 20 minutes of crunch-time basketball in his collegiate career or a junior who helped the Buckeyes reach the Final Four last season?
It was a no-brainer for Craft, who was extra motivated to pick up the slack after he nearly gave the game away with some very uncharacteristic plays over the final four minutes. I would say kudos to this kid for having the onions to take that shot, but that’s just Craft.
He does whatever it takes.
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