First Thoughts: Iowa State

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Last updated: 03/25/2013 1:25 AM
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Men's Basketball
First Thoughts From Ohio State's 78-75 Win Over Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament
By Tony Gerdeman

You know how when you take a step on some ice, begin to slip and lose your balance, and then recover to catch yourself, and think, "Hey, I'm still pretty spry." Aaron Craft did something similar against Iowa State. He slipped for a bit, but caught himself, and then as he was righting himself, he also decided to hit a game-winning three-pointer to boot. The only better finish would have had him adjusting a fake necktie after the shot.

Let's take a look at the final 6:31 of the game, which begins with an Aaron Craft foul with the Buckeyes leading 67-56. Melvin Ejim missed the front end of the one-and-one, so Ohio State caught a break. Exactly 60 seconds later, Craft turned the ball over, which led to an Iowa State layup.

Shortly after that turnover, he missed a layup, leading to a pair of Cyclone free throws, bringing the score to 69-63. Then Craft missed the front end of a one-and-one, which was followed by a Tyrus McGee three-pointer. Craft then missed another front end of a one-and-one, and answered back by fouling Korie Lucious on a layup attempt, which turned into a three-point play and tied the game. That wasn't even the end of it. He also added another turnover and foul, giving Iowa State a 73-71 lead.

And then Aaron Craft righted himself.

He curled into the lane with the ball like Drano looking for a clog, converting a three-point play, and giving the Buckeyes a 74-73 lead with 2:35 to play. A little over a minute later, he went 1-2 at the free throw line to tie the game at 75. And then one minute and 14 seconds later, he stepped into a three-point shot after waving Deshaun Thomas away, and sank the game-winning basket and Iowa State's dreams at the exact same time.

The onions on this kid would win most state fairs.

The ability to shrug off a very poor series of events and erase them all completely isn't even a feat that amnesia can accomplish, because even with amnesia, there is the possibility of flashbacks.

But I'll be honest with you, as I was watching that last possession, I had zero doubt that Craft was going to win the game. I just figured that the game-winning shot would come a lot closer to the basket.

Having a bunch of three-point shooters is nice, but having Aaron Craft is nicer.

Created Controversy Creates Controversy. I'm only mentioning CBS's coverage of the Aaron Craft charging call so that people don't ask why I didn't.

As I write this, nearly four hours after the fact (I'm a tad lazy), I'm watching North Carolina and Kansas. I just saw a North Carolina defender with a foot in the "restricted area" take a charge. Because it was in the first half, there wasn't a big deal made about it. There wasn't even mention of it being a close call. There was no replay.

Now, I am no friend of basketball referees, but if we're seriously going to break down a call that is dependent on one inch of a 4,700-square foot basketball court, and using enhanced video to do it, aren't we going way overboard?

Also, since when did a referee's call only affects the final two minutes of a game.

Deft Deshaun Delivers Deceptively. I am of the belief that when Deshaun Thomas scores a "quiet 22 points", as he did in this game, the Buckeyes are going to be hard to beat.

Why was it quiet? Well, he only took 14 shots and never really took over the game, as both LaQuinton Ross and Aaron Craft did at times. Thomas simply did what he was asked. He hit big shots throughout the game, but he was almost in a complementary role at times in this game.

Though perhaps his best play of the game came when he tipped an Iowa State pass into Sam Thompson's hands at the one-minute mark. The Cyclones wouldn't get the ball back until there was only .5 seconds left on the clock.

Even though Thomas forced some shots early, he was hitting them. The rest of the game, however, he was under control, and was killing Iowa State in the zone. It's a strange thing watching this team when there are three bonafide scoring threats on the court.

Ross Rally Reaps Rewards. Sorry about this alliteration stuff. I'm just entertaining myself at this point. Anyway, LaQuinton Ross's 17 points in 21 minutes was pretty impressive. It was like watching Ross play on a team where he is the unquestioned best player.

In the span of just over two-and-a-half minutes, Ross scored 10 consecutive points, pushing a six-point lead to a 10-point lead. It was quite the change from the first half of the game, when Ross missed his first two three-point attempts and then left the game.

Ross missed his first four shots before drilling his final six, including three from three-point range. The good part about that is that he never got down about his shots not falling. There is no doubt that his confidence is at an all-time high as a Buckeye, and it couldn't be happening at a better time.

Shannon Scott Sires Separation. It's never a surprise when the Buckeyes go on a run when Shannon Scott comes into the game. In fact, at times it feels like the Buckeyes are simply hoping not to be down too much before they can finally get their best lineup on the court.

Scott's impact was no different in this game, as the Buckeyes went on an immediate 8-0 run with  him in the lineup. Then he went and got a technical foul called on him, which led to foul trouble for the rest of the game. He had to sit for a good portion of the first half, which allowed Iowa State to stay in the game longer than they probably should have.

It's pretty amazing how his impact comes to be, considering that he doesn't finish very well, he doesn't shoot very well, and can't always push the ball like he wants to.

Yet the numbers don't lie. The defense ramps up, the speed picks up, everything picks up. Opponents quickly get flustered by the increased defensive intensity, and before you know, they're in the midst of a 6-0 run and they haven't even gotten a shot off.

Shannon Scott is the basketball equivalent of taking the T-Tops out and sliding on the Ray-Bans.

Defense Down, Doesn't Die. Yes, the Cyclones hit 12-25 (48%) from three-point range, but they only shot 11-27 (40.7%) from inside the three-point line.

It's impossible to defend every perimeter shot, so you have to give credit to Iowa State for hitting some clutch shots, including some with a hand in their face.

However, when they took the ball a little bit closer to the basket, the Buckeyes were right there to make life difficult for them. Even a guy like Will Clyburn, who was having his way with Sam Thompson at times, still went 6-17 from the field. He had some success, but it was rarely easy for him.

Credit Iowa State for getting hot late. If they hadn't, this would have stayed a blow out.

Quick Quips. I'm not sure enough is being made of Ohio State's last three wins. Not because of the teams they've beaten, rather because of the styles of basketball they've employed in those wins. Against Wisconsin, they played Badger ball. Against Iona, they ran the ball. Against Iowa State, they got into a three-point shooting contest and went 9-18 from long distance. Styles don't seem to matter against this team. ... Lenzelle Smith had two big three-pointers, and some tremendous defense while he was in there. While many simply wait for Shannon Scott to come in and send Smith to the bench, he definitely contributed to this win. ... The Buckeyes got killed on the boards, but that's going to happen when an offense spreads you out and rebounds are bouncing 15 feet away from the basket. It really means nothing moving forward. ... This was far from a perfect game. Even when the Buckeyes opened a double-digit lead, they could have done it sooner, but had consecutive turnovers when they were up by five points. They were incredibly fortunate to hold on to this game. Though it's funny how fortunate a team can be when they have Aaron Craft.

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