As Aaron Craft dribbled the ball around, waiting for the clock to dwindle down to the 0.0 mark, fans in the University of Dayton arena wondered: “what’s going to happen next?” The answer could have been many things. Craft could have passed it off to DeShaun Thomas who could have hit the game winner. Thad Matta could have called a play and the Buckeyes could have emerged victorious. Someone could have even taken a shot, missed it, and sent the Buckeyes into overtime. Most of these options were more expected than what occurred with .5 seconds left.
The minute Aaron Craft hitched his left shoulder, you knew what was happening, but you couldn’t believe it. “I knew that they put the bigger guy on me, and I knew I was going to have space, so I made a judgement call. I took the shot and it went it.” said Craft, following the game on Sunday afternoon.
WIth DeShaun Thomas calling for the ball with huge, round eyes, Craft simply put his hand out and said “no, I got this.”. DeShaun was probably in shock when he saw Craft’s hand shake him away. The fans were even a little bit angry at what was happening. What happened next was the stuff of legends.
Time stood still.
Craft put the ball up and down it went, straight through the round, orange basket. As the ball swished through the net, fans jumped up and made the UD arena their own personal echo chamber, screaming at the top of their lungs. It was an atmosphere I have never before seen, and could only hope to see many times more.
Craft, the Ohio State sweetheart, was very nearly the goat, before he was the hero. Committing uncharacteristic fouls, turnovers, and missing free throws, Craft was keeping the Iowa State team in the game, almost single handedly. He was tired and a little down on his luck, but even in the midst of the adversity that surrounded him, he felt he had it in him to save the game. “I just missed a shot from just inside the arc that felt really good, so I felt that I could shoot another good shot, and, again, it just went in.”
In the midst of it all, Coach Matta agreed with his point guard. “No, I was with him on that” said Matta, “I saw the matchup, the passing lane to DeShaun wasn’t open, so I was with him on that judgement call.”
What may have created even more buzz than the shot was the charge that preceded the shot. Had it been called, the charge could have given Iowa State a chance at two additional free throws. It was unclear as to whether or not Aaron Craft’s right foot was beyond the restricted area, and the uncertainty caused a bit of an uproar. Many believed that the call should have been changed, but NCAA National Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officiating, John Adams, made a statement saying the official did not see the defender’s foot over the restricted area line and, therefore, the play is not reviewable.
While the call may be iffy, there is no doubt about Aaron Craft’s clutch three-pointer. His shot may not have saved the Buckeyes, as they would have gone to overtime, but it could certainly propel them to get to the Final Four in Atlanta.
With the 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8 seeds in the West region eliminated, Ohio State has, at least in terms of seeding, a much easier road than they could have hoped for. While Iowa State was the 10 seed, they may have been the most dangerous team the Buckeyes will see on the way to Atlanta. With their size, athleticism, and outside shooting ability, Iowa State causes tremendous problems for their opponents. Ohio State was able to do just enough to keep them at bay. Arizona, Ole Miss, La Salle, and Wichita State probably don’t have the firepower to put up a fight like the Cyclones did. This is March, however, and anything can happen. Ohio State and Coach Matta have referred to that many times.
For the Buckeyes, it’s now off to Los Angeles to take on the Arizona Wildcats. With a couple of days to prepare, the Buckeyes should be able to take care of the Wildcats without too much trouble. As for Craft, he’s just focused on tomorrow. “Right now, I just want to get back to Columbus. When I get back, I have an Organic Chemistry exam I have to study for”, said Craft, shaking his head. “I gotta get ready for that.”