Found March 24, 2012 on
Fox Sports Ohio:
BOSTON (AP) -- Aaron Craft doesn't get as much publicity as some of his Ohio State teammates.
Jared Sullinger is the star. Deshaun Thomas is the shooter.
But Craft is the stopper, the pesky defender who irritates dribblers and takes the ball away.
"He takes great pride in what he's doing every single possession," Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said Friday. "That's why I've said it all year. He's the best defender in college basketball."
On Saturday night, Craft will be pestering Syracuse guards Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche and Dion Waiters in the East regional final as the second-seeded Buckeyes try to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2007 when they lost the championship game to Florida.
"He's just one of those guys who's always up on you," Triche said. "He's good with his hands. He gets into the passing lane. He pretty much just makes it tough, sliding left and right. He's one of those guys who never gives up."
Craft tied his season high of six steals in Thursday night's 81-66 win over sixth-seeded Cincinnati. And three came after the Bearcats overcame a 37-25 halftime deficit to take a 52-48 lead.
That increased his school single-season record to 94 steals. As a freshman last season, his 73 were fourth most in Ohio State history. And with 167 in just two years, he's only 37 shy of the record set by Jay Burson from 1986-89.
Craft traces his defensive focus to being the son of a high school coach and playing against older brothers.
"We would play one-on-one," he said. "I couldn't score too much because I was a lot smaller, but I could frustrate him if I was playing defense. That kind of is what I hung my hat on, and it carried over, and it's something I enjoy doing. I take great pride in it."
The 6-foot-2 Craft spreads his arms wide in front of ballhandlers trying to get by him. He slides his feet quickly to cut off their path. And he pokes at the ball to take it away.
In the first half against Cincinnati, he missed all three of his shots. But he made two of four in the second half and finished with 11 points.
One of his greatest assets, though, is his determination to defend. That's why some opponents hate to play against him.
"I hope so," Craft said. "That's what a goal of a good defensive player is, just to try to take another player out of his rhythm and hopefully he doesn't feel as comfortable as he does in other games."
He also sets up his own teammates. He had five assists against Cincinnati and holds the school record for a single game with 15 against George Mason in last year's NCAA tournament. On Thursday night, two of those assists came on baskets by Thomas, who led the Buckeyes with 26 points.
Ohio State reached the regional semifinals with a 73-66 win over Gonzaga in which Craft had a season-high 10 assists and tied his best point total for the season with 17. It was the first double-double of his career.
But he knew when he arrived at Ohio State that the best way to get playing time would be with his defense.
"I think he kind of assessed the situation that he was walking into and said, what do I have to do to help this basketball team win?' ' Matta said. "He chose and said, I'm going to defend and I'm going to take care of the basketball, and I think I'll have an opportunity to play.' "
Craft started just one of 37 games last season but averaged 29.6 minutes per game. He's started every game this year and averaged 31.7 minutes after playing all but one minute against Cincinnati.
He could be on the floor for the entire game on Saturday night.
So how do Syracuse's athletic guards match up with Craft?
"We'll find out," Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. "I don't give scouting reports."
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Wow , What a great ride by The Buckeyes so far coming out of the East Region in this wild March Madness Tournament 2012 style. You have to love The Bucks Defense Led By Jared Sullinger you also have to love the play from Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith and Amir Williams The Freshman coming off the bench yesterday for Sully ,The Buckeyes have played overall well this year at...
Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger, currently on a social media hiatus, showed why he is a projected lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft as the Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Cincinnati Bearcats 81-66 on Thursday night. Sullinger scored 23 points and grabed 11 rebounds while only taking 13 shots from the floor. Sullinger was...Read the Rest...
Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas has been one of the breakout stories of the NCAA Tournament, leading the Buckeyes' offensive attack and boosting his NBA draft stock in the process. But it's his work as a more complete player that has made both Thomas and the Buckeyes successful.
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I’ll be covering the Ohio State – Syracuse game for Score Mobile. If you’re stuck somewhere without a television or just want more stats and a chance to add your own thoughts on the game, you can join me as I provide play-by-play coverage of the game.
You can follow my game coverage on your cell phone via Score Mobile or on your computer by using the application at the bottom...
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A full recap from my weekend's adventures in Beantown will be forthcoming. Keep your chins up Cuse fans.* 1992 Hall of Fame Bowl