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The Journal Gazette

Monday, March 25, 2013 12:16 am

Craft hits the big 3 for the Buckeyes

By TOM WITHERSAP Sports Writer

Aaron Craft can't shoot. Deshaun Thomas can't play defense.

And yet, in the closing seconds of Ohio State's 78-75 thriller over Iowa State on Sunday, the two Buckeyes reversed roles to help the No. 2 seed move on in the NCAA tournament.

The rosy-cheeked Craft, perhaps the best on-ball defender in the nation, has never been known for his outside stroke. But with the game tied and the clock winding down, Craft, realizing he had a mismatch against Cyclones forward Georges Niang, waved off Thomas and calmly drilled a 3-pointer in the final second.

"They switched," Craft said of Iowa State's defense. "I got their biggest guy on me, made a read, and fortunately enough, it went in. My teammates believed in me and I'm just glad I could come through for them."

The biggest basket of Craft's career helped erase some tough minutes for the junior, who missed two free throws and had a costly turnover down the stretch. He did make a big play on defense, though, drawing a disputed charging foul on Iowa State's Will Clyburn with 1:41 left.

TV replays showed Craft's right heel was at the semicircle restricting the area where players can take a charge, but the referees could not change their call.

The NCAA issued a statement, which probably won't soothe Cyclones fans from feeling they were robbed.

And as for Thomas, the Buckeyes' leading scorer who never met a shot he didn't like, he made a defensive stop that had his teammates kidding him after the game.

With the score tied 75-all, Iowa State tried a play that had worked several times. Coming off a screen near the foul line, Niang cut toward the basket and was awaiting the ball when Thomas alertly stuck out his arm and tipped it to teammate Sam Thompson, who wrapped both arms around it.

"Huge steal," said Ohio State coach Thad Matta. "That was a big-time play in the game, and I couldn't have been more excited when he made it."