Craft Leads Buckeyes Past Michigan State into B1G Tournament Championship Game

By Kyle Rowland on March 16, 2013 at 6:18p
86 Comments
The bench is ready to party

CHICAGO – Rarely if ever has the boogeyman been 6-foot-2, 190 pounds. But when Tom Izzo and Keith Appling lay their heads on their pillows at night, visions of Aaron Craft cause sleeplessness and moments of terror.

Ohio State’s defensive-minded point guard once again slashed and dashed through Michigan State’s line of defense, carrying the Buckeyes on his back to the Big Ten Tournament championship game with a 61-58 win over Michigan State. 

Craft scored 20 points – 18 in the second half – and added nine assists and four steals.

“Once you get in a groove like that, everything you throw up seems like it goes in,” he said.

The story has been written numerous times. Aaron Craft, master of his domain, uses super powers to triumphantly vault Ohio State to victory. Even though it’s been seen time and again, how he seemingly does things beyond belief, his own coach was left speechless on Saturday.

“It's hard to put into words,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “You look at what he has accomplished thus far in his career at Ohio State and just the wins, the big plays that he’s made. In coaching, you don’t get to coach a lot of guys like him, just from A to Z and everything he stands for. He kind of makes us go on both ends of the floor.”

In Ohio State’s 68-60 win over Michigan State in February, it was Craft who provided the Buckeyes with a second-half spark. He made seven shots – all layups – after the break en route to a career-high 21 that afternoon. But his pestering defense also attracted headlines when he limited Appling to three points on 1-of-6 shooting to go along with three turnovers.

Izzo was complimentary of Craft’s abilities after he generated that turnaround with Ohio State trailing by nine. The Buckeyes never came close to facing a deficit of that extent on Saturday, but Craft still gave his team that extra oomph while Ohio State struggled with inconsistent play at both ends of the floor.

“We did not do a very good job on Craft,” Izzo said. “He beat us in a different way. The first time he beat us getting to the hole. He almost never got to the hole, and this time he beat us with his jump shot.”

Appling only had one turnover, though his entire body of work was unimpressive. He scored 16 points on 17 shots and only had two assists and one steal. After making his first two shots, Appling was in Craft's ear. At the end of the night, though, Appling trudged off the court with a season's worth of frustration built up.

The Spartans led, 29-28, at the half after Ohio State went ice-cold down the stretch, missing its final 10 shots from the field. But Craft came out and scored and then got a steal and an assist to Lenzelle Smith Jr. to put the Buckeyes in front, 32-30. They never trailed the rest of the game.

Michigan State tied it at 45 midway through the half, but Ohio State went on a 10-2 run – nine points by Craft – to regain control. After the Spartans scored seven straight to pull within one with 1:54 left to play, Ohio State held possession of the ball until 22 seconds remained. By then, the Buckeyes had a two-possession lead.

Craft and Shannon Scott’s heady defensive play was a key factor in Ohio State’s impressive second-half play. Four of their six steals were in the second half. The Buckeyes had an 11-0 advantage in points off turnovers and fast break points. Michigan State turned it over 12 times.

Deshaun Thomas was off the entire game, but even when he’s not at his best Thomas’ knack for the ball is an asset for Ohio State. With the Buckeyes clinging to a two-point lead in the final minute, Scott missed a 3.

Thomas swooped in, though, and came up with his biggest offensive rebound of the game. It reset the shot clock and gave Ohio State another full possession at a critical juncture. For good measure, Thomas capped it off with a bucket to give the Buckeyes a four-point lead with 22 seconds left. He was just 5 of 18 prior to the game-clinching basket. Thomas finished with 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting and seven rebounds.

“It was great. A lot of (NBA) guys have off nights and come down with the big shot,” he said. “Coach told me to be patient. It felt great when it hit the rim and fell in.

“It was a big rebound. A lot of guys talk about my scoring, but I rebound the ball really well to be an undersized 4 man. It was a big play and a big possession. It was a blessing to grab that rebound and kick it back out to Craft.”

Michigan State’s frontline controlled the first half offensively for the Spartans. Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne combined for 15 of Michigan State’s 29 points and eight of 19 rebounds. The duo was 7 of 9 from the field and responsible for the Spartans’ overwhelming 20-10 points in the paint advantage. There were only five total fouls called in the first half, and Michigan State made sure to take advantage.

“The Big Ten’s a physical league,” said Ohio State senior forward Evan Ravenel. “We knew what we were getting ourselves into, especially playing Michigan State. It’s difficult, but it’s fun. I’m competitive and I love going against Nix and Payne. That’s the top frontcourt in our league. Every opportunity you can prove yourself against guys like that, I take full advantage.”

The second half featured 10 fouls alone on the Spartans. Nix and Payne made one shot apiece and only attempted four combined. Amir Williams, Ravenel and Thomas fronted the post players and collapsed effectively when the ball was thrown down low. Michigan State had eight points in the paint after the break compared to Ohio State’s 16.

Nix led Michigan State with 17 points, Appling had 16 and Payne 12.

“Once again, I think our defense (was great), especially there in the second half, getting our hands on the balls and challenging shots,” Matta said. “They made adjustments, we had to make adjustments on the fly, and I thought our guys did a good job of that. Great win for us.”

Ohio State advances to its ninth Big Ten Tournament championship game – and fifth straight – in the 16-year history of the event. Matta is responsible for seven of those appearances and three championships. He’s tied with Izzo for the most tournament titles.

“It’s all Coach, him and the players he recruits,” Craft said of the postseason success. “He really takes this tournament seriously. He takes it one game at a time and looks at it as, if you lose, you go home. He does a phenomenal job, and it really trickles down to us.”

The Buckeyes play Wisconsin, who upset top-seeded Indiana, at 3:30 Eastern on CBS.


86 Comments

Comments

Buckeye06's picture

this team has earned a 2 seed by now I'd say

bhartman13's picture

Oh yeah this team should have locked up that 2 seed in the West bracket where they would start in Dayton for 1st two games.  This team is clicking and didn't even play all that well but still able to get the W.

Wobble in our Shoes's picture

HE PUT THA TEAM ON HIS BACK!
That being said, it's nice to be playing your best bball the third week of March.

Urban Ohio's picture

This team is starting to gel at just the right time. Plus they can get a lot better. The more confident the young guys get the higher the ceiling gets. Go Bucks

Newcomerstown Trojans between Woody and Beaver.

AcrossTheField11's picture

You've also gotta think that there is a good chance that Deshaun comes back next year.  I think we've seen Lenzelle's ceiling but If Sam Thompson, Amir Williams, Laquinton Ross and Shannon Scott continue to develop this team could be ridiculously good next year.  
Aaron Craft is on the verge of becoming a Buckeye legend.

Time and change will surely show how firm they friendship... O-HI-O.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Craft owns steal record and he's only a JR.. I guess he's only good because of his rosey cheeks. Burke, where you at?

ATXbucknut's picture

March Sadness for Sparty.

BME_Buckeye's picture

Hide yo kids, hide yo couch take for cover run for your life! 

Burn baby Burn!

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.

 

ATXbucknut's picture

mmm, delicious...this Spartan whine is great for a 2013 vintage.  Buttery undertones of bitter cherry and apple; it rests on the palate remarkably well.  Cannot wait to pair another whine with some Wisconsin cheese tomorrow.

Bucks43201's picture

Brad Kirk Mack = likely Rhodes Scholar

"You win with people." - Woody Hayes

CSAR Buckeye's picture

The whine also tastes of sour grapes.

cal3713's picture

#$%^ YOU CBS!!!   Cut to the mountain west championship game with 9 seconds left.  And played Hail to the Victors on a commercial break in the pregame coverage.

kareemabduljacobb's picture

They didn't turn it over to the New Mexico game till after the game for me.

cal3713's picture

Yeah, I'm sure it's just because of my area.  Apparently they think everyone in Colorado is so into the MWC that they would riot if part of the game was missed because of an incredibly tight matchup between two top-10 teams.  In reality I haven't seen any evidence that people give two shits about college sports here.  The Broncos, mountains, and pot get a lot of attention though. 

kareemabduljacobb's picture

Haha, word!  What part of CO are you in??  I'll be out there this summer for a week or 2... my dad has a Condo out in Winter Park so I'm definitely gonna be hittin' that up for a nice lil get away.

Citrus's picture

They are going on and on about how the Mountain West is the best conference by RPI. They gloat that 5 of the conference teams are going to the Tournament. Ummmm... B1G has four teams in the top ten. Wisky is pretty darn good too.

buckeyedude's picture

GO B1G!                                                                                   I think.

 

 

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

The floor at that Mountain West championship game looks pretty cool

Class of 2010.

Citrus's picture

Yeah the floor was neat.

Urban Ohio's picture

Wouldn't that be Hail to the Losers !!!

Newcomerstown Trojans between Woody and Beaver.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

To their credit they played Black Keys Ohio during a TO. Thought of 11W.

kr66osu's picture

da buckeyes man
da buckeyes

BCOM's picture

Aaron Craft tournament MVP!!!

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Craft BIG MVP. Rosey cheeks is the difference maker in the toughest conference.

81Alum's picture

Glad we won. Thought that Nix played dirty the whole game. Refs should have ejected him on that flagrant foul on Craft.

Geraffi's picture

Agreed. That was a dirty foul. 

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Keels and Stokes on the radio were surprised that it was called flagrant at all.  I didn't see it, as I was driving at that time...

Class of 2010.

AcrossTheField11's picture

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U09oXyiAkOc
It looked kinda like that...

Time and change will surely show how firm they friendship... O-HI-O.

BuckeyeChief's picture

revenge
retaliation
get back.

tomorrow.

 

"Damn I miss El Guapo"

kareemabduljacobb's picture

Hell yeah!  Bucks are rollin'.  Hopefully we'll end up with a 2 seed, place close too home and have some favorable matchups.  Soooo many frustrating plays today though, glad they pulled it out!!!  Payback time for Wisky.

Baroclinicity's picture

Gelling at the right time, ladies and gents...

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

skiehl's picture

Aaron Craft is trending :)

Menexenus's picture

I heard CBS play the Black Keys' "Ohio" before one commercial break.  Nice!

Real fans stay for Carmen.

Hovenaut's picture

Gutty win.

Craft shone today.

Hate Week runneth over

RedStorm45's picture

Should have gone to Chicago!

ATT2121's picture

How bout them Buckeyes!!! So proud of the way this team came together down the stretch. This year might be Thad's best coaching performance. OH!

 
 

"It all goes so fast, and character makes the difference when it's close."
Jesse Owens
 

Clmm297's picture

I agree about Matta's coaching this season...I said it a few months ago, look at where UK is going to be this year with all their 5 star McDonalds All-Americans.  We have great talent, but Thad finally got them to play together and accept their roles.

BuckeyeChief's picture

agreed, and I will shut my mouth about him now.

 

"Damn I miss El Guapo"

kr66osu's picture

Lunardi has OSU back in Gonzaga's bracket which I think would be the most preferable #1 seed matchup

BME_Buckeye's picture

Does the Mods or someone have a Gif of the flagrant foul on Nix? If so please post it!

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.

 

AcrossTheField11's picture

Time and change will surely show how firm they friendship... O-HI-O.

BME_Buckeye's picture

Thank you sir. Appreciate it! I upvoted your commet! 

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.

 

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

That was a fun game.  Buckeyes looked very good.  Craft was a beast in the 2nd half.  This team is playing their best basketball of the season, and if that carries over to tomorrow, Buckeyes are winning this tournament yet again.

Class of 2010.

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

Seems like some of the 'refuse to lose' mentality has found it's way from the turf to the hardwood.
I like it.

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

Urbstache's picture

Big big win. Trending up at the right time, which is what the tourney is all about.

Urban Warfare

BUCKfutter's picture

if the officiating is that bad tomorrow my tv might get broken

the kids are playing their tail off, and the coaches are screwing it up! - JLS

rdubs's picture

Officiating really wasn't very bad tonight.  They missed the one on Thompson's fast break, but overall that was about as good as I have seen all season.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I agree - I thought the officiating was pretty good. The officials were mostly invisible, which is about the best thing you can say about them.
My complaint, though -at least until the Buckeyes were able to close out the Spartans - was that the 4-5 times they did make mistakes, it seemed like 3-4 went against the Buckeyes.
But otherwise I would take that officiating any day over what we usually get.  

AcrossTheField11's picture

Also agree.  The refs letting the game play out without blowing the whistle plays to our favor.  As awesome as Craft and Scott are defensively, they can get a little handsy at times and even give little body bumps.  If that kind of contact is called in the dance it will somewhat neutralize the best defensive backcourt in the country.

Time and change will surely show how firm they friendship... O-HI-O.

jaxbuckeye's picture

Are you serious?  You need to rewatch that game.  They missed almost no call against the Buckeyes but let Michigan St do pretty much anything they wanted to do.  Refs were an absolute joke.  Nix hooks on every play.

b_pbucksfans's picture

I agree. Nix was running around cave-man clubbing everybody the whole game! That foul on Craft was intentional and excessive. Watch the replay, Nix was lookin to hurt Aaron.

BUCKfutter's picture

it wasn't as bad tonight as it was last night, granted. I really felt sorry for iowa

the kids are playing their tail off, and the coaches are screwing it up! - JLS

TheShookster's picture

I am spending the weekend at my alma mater UDayton for st pattys day and all I can say is Aaron Craft is going to win us a national championship!!!

allbucksallthetime's picture

Aaron Craft has been terrific in the last month.  His improved "O" play came when things looked most bleak for OSU which, again, speaks to his character.
I'm still shocked that AC was not the B1G's Best Defensive player this year.  With no disrespect to the kid from Indiana, AC is the best defender in America, let alone the B1G.  Hopefully, AC will be honored as such before all is said and done.  Go Bucks!

AcrossTheField11's picture

The only reason Craft didn't win the conference DPOY is because there are so many D-Bag coaches in this league.  Crean and Bo Ryan specifically can get bent.  
Maybe the people who vote for national DPOY will take the asinine article and the subsequent snub into consideration and Craft will bring home the bigger hardware.  

Time and change will surely show how firm they friendship... O-HI-O.

jaxbuckeye's picture

Agreed.  Coaches in the B1G are the biggest bunches of transparent biiiitches I've ever seen.   Absolute joke that he didn't win DPOY and Matta didn't win coach.  This team has glaring weaknesses and is clearly the best team in the league right now.

Idaho Helga's picture

Sir, I would upvote you by 10 but dang, dang, I shall  only do 1.  My sentiments exactly. This is the same league that NEVER gave Tressel coach of the year and not the Urbs last year. WTF?

Basso Profondo's picture

Hopefully we get our revenge on Wisky tomorrow, the team looks ready to rise to the occasion.

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

They are rolling on all cylinders now.  They are playing good basketball, tough defense, would like to see some better shooting at times, but hey can't complain about making it to the CG game again!  Go Bucks beat the Badgers!

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Nice win!
This game really demonstrated how much they've progressed. Even though Craft was dismantling MSU's defense most of the game and they got a lot of good open looks, they only shot like 42 percent. Scott had a bit of an off game, I thought.
Meanwhile, MSU had to struggle for almost every point they got.
Based on the flow of the game, the Buckeyes probably win by 7+ points if they're converting open looks like they usually would. Thus, it was a strong effort, which showed their margin for error is higher than it was a month ago.

Buckeyeneer's picture

Go Bucks!

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I can't stand Tom Crean. I was rooting for the Badgers today.
Yet, I was so confident that Ohio State would end up facing the Hoosiers tomorrow afternoon that I created on a silly little "marquee" advertising what I thought the matchup would be.
It's obsolete now, but I still can't resist taking a shot at Crean before I have to start rooting for the Hoosiers next week: 

 

tampa buckeye's picture

Whos laughing about tampa calling the 1 or 2 seed now....show yourselfs. Go bucks lol
Oh and arron craft is a boss ! A white rosey cheeked boss

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Tampa - good call, but I don't see them getting a 1. To have any chance of landing a 1 seed, they'd have to win tomorrow, but the Selection Committee will already have their brackets finalized (pending any "bubble buster" upsets) before the 3:30 pm tip off. 

d5k's picture

Indiana should still get a 1 seed along with Gonzaga and Kansas, but if Louisville loses tonight and Miami loses tomorrow you could make an argument for OSU over Duke, right?  Should at least be the 5 or 6 on the S curve in that scenario.

RedStorm45's picture

Why? IU is 26-6. If we win we'll be 26-7.  They're 3-3 in their last 6 and we'd be on an 8 game win streak.  We split the season series.  I think IU is benefiting from their pre-season hype.

d5k's picture

Outright regular season big ten champs.  If McGary makes that layup then we'd have an argument in my opinion but it will be hard for the committee to get past that accomplishment.

b_pbucksfans's picture

CBS talked to the selection committee at half. He said they only had 1 legit #1 seed with 5-6 teams playing for the other 3 seeds. If TOSU wins tomorrow, I think we have a good a shot as the others for a 1. With our RPI, SOS and conference, I think there is still a chance!!

d5k's picture

I think it is decided at this point.  But Lunardi has us as a 2 seed in Indianapolis with Louisville getting that spot over Indiana!  That's better than a 1 seed in Texas or LA I think.

d5k's picture

"I am really looking forward to playing somebody else," he (Tom Izzo) said. "I think the other Big Ten teams are. We've really beaten the hell out of each other. I really believe the toughest teams, the ones who have been through the most, is going to benefit. I'm looking forward to playing anybody. I'd rather play the Lakers tomorrow instead of these teams we've played recently."
Can't wait til the NCAA tournament where we don't have to deal with teams that know every nuance of harassing Deshaun Thomas.  And can't wait for Craft and Scott to sneak up on unsuspecting non-B1G guards.

Squirrel Master's picture

Aaron "God Beast" Craft owned that game. He really is coming into his own.

I really see this team doing some damage in the tourney. I say elite eight level at the least. They don't lose to teams they should beat and they can hang with any team out there.

They will get a 2 seed. Lots has to happen for them to jump up to a 1. As long as Duke doesn't get one either. That would be some BS!

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

Idaho Helga's picture

Agreed. No lower than a 2 seed.   Can't wait until the  big dance.  Oh, and go curb stomp wisky.

Squirrel Master's picture

NCAA seeding does matter but now that they will be in the championship game against Wisky, it will be awesome to win it and take the title. This team has worked hard to get to this point, they deserve the title. I hope they win it!
 

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

Poison nuts's picture

Glad to see how this season has played out. If you're gonna have a streak - this is when you have it. Congrats Buckeyes, congrats to Thad Matta & congrats to the fans who didn't give up after the Wisky loss & delve into the 'fire Matta' or 'this team is gonna lose all the rest of their games' horseshit that was running rampant for a while...GO BUCKS!!!

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

jaxbuckeye's picture

Great win.  Way to go Bucks, despite the atrocious officiating tonight. 

jaxbuckeye's picture

How about Thompson.  Wow!  I take back all the critical things I said earlier in the season.  It's nice to see a player growing.  His jump shot looks smooth.  If he keeps that up this kid could be a serious player next year!

d5k's picture

If he adds an 8 foot pull up or floater he will be all big ten next year.  Especially if Deshaun leaves for the draft.

WiliestBuckeye's picture

Imagine if Craft improves his jumper next year. Complete domination will ensue.

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."

MediBuck's picture

HOW YOU LIKE THEM ROSY APPLES?!

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

ih8rolltyde's picture

Slam and LaQ comin along is huge for us. Scott and Craft play serious D together. I can't say anything ab the way Craft is playing to do him any justice.

Go Bucks!

****igan smells like old water that hot dogs were boiled in.  FACT

Squirrel Master's picture

I will help you IH8ROLLTYDE, 
Last 7 games that OSU has won:
Against lesser opponents Minnesota, Northwestern and Nebraska: 5.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 5.6 apg, 3.0 spg with shooting around 60% (not great but also have to recognize he probably sat large portions of the 2nd half thanks to big leads)
Against MSU twice, Indy and Illinois: 17.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.25 apg, 3.0 spg, 64.2% 
 
Hmmm......one could almost say that he plays really well when the games matter more...
and....oh who gives a shit! Craft is good and this guy has no idea what he is talking about. Almost feels like writers are TRYING to troll OSU fans on purpose to gain notoriety. Now why would they do something like that?

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

RBuck's picture

All I can say is Wow. The 3 Buckeye-Sparty games were the best basketball games I've seen all year; win or lose.

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)