Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad

By Sarah on March 25, 2013 at 2:00p
39 Comments

"Lewis has been awesome... Lets it go... BRINGS IT HOME!"

Six years ago, Ron Lewis became an Ohio State basketball legend thanks to a game-tying three that still brings goosebumps to any Buckeye fan who takes a stroll down YouTube memory lane.

"HA HA" - Gus JohnsonThis is March Madness

College basketball in March is synonymous with dramatic, clutch shots, and during the Thad Matta era, Ohio State has had its fair share of March Madness highlights.

Matt Sylvester was the star in Matta's first year. Evan Turner was the man the same season when he was everyone's player of the year. Last season, it was William Buford clinching a Big Ten title in East Lansing.

Aaron Craft joined their illustrious company when his three against Iowa State broke a 75-75 tie and vaulted Ohio State to the Sweet 16. Lewis' trey against Xavier sent the game to overtime, and the Buckeyes would go on to win in the extra period, which earned them a spot in the Sweet 16 and eventually, the national championship game. 

That tournament run, in hindsight, made the basket even huger. It's only been six years, but in some ways — the video quality alone — it seems like a lot longer. Yet in other ways, it's almost like nothing has changed. 

Matta is bringing Ohio State to its fourth straight Sweet 16 and fifth in seven seasons. He will face off against Sean Miller, his protégé and former coach of the aforementioned Xavier team, when the Buckeyes meet Arizona in the next game.

Those outside of the Ohio State fanbase continue to point to one officiating call — whether a non-flagrant foul on Greg Oden or Craft taking a charge — as if that was all that decided the outcome of a game. 

Games are won and lost by more than one call or one shot. But those last-minute heroics stand out more than anything, and Ohio State is still giving the editors of the One Shining Moment montage plenty to work with. 

I don't remember every detail about that afternoon when Ohio State and Xavier battled in Lexington. I couldn't tell you who the top scorer was or even who led at halftime without looking at the box score1. But I remember the Buckeyes fell into a double-digit hole in the second half that it seemed like they would never dig themselves out of.

It was also the day before my birthday and even though I was too old to be so precious about it, I felt like the basketball team was going to ruin my birthday. In all honesty, a loss probably would have, but then Ron Lewis hit that three, Gus Johnson went nuts2, and Mike Conley Jr. took over in OT. I will never forget those details.

I will never forget that I was watching, as I did throughout the tournament, with my grandma, grandpa, aunt, and uncle. In a family full of hardcore sports fans, my grandma was forced to watch more games than she probably cared to, but basketball was her favorite sport and she particularly enjoyed watching that season. So did my grandpa, who would get easily agitated when the players screwed up and then he would try to coach them from his recliner.

They wouldn't live to see Aaron Craft suit up for the Buckeyes, yet I have no doubt they would have loved him, approving of his pestering, hustling ways on the court and his nice-guy reputation off the court.

My uncle, a former college basketball player himself back in the day, held Craft in high regard and appreciated all of the little things he does for the team. He's gone now too, but my uncle would've admired Craft's biggest contribution as well, especially the fearless, confident, ice water in the veins attitude that it took to attempt that shot. And he would've remembered a similar bucket from Ron Lewis only six years ago. 

Like I said, there's a lot that has changed in the past six years and a lot that hasn't. 

For many reasons, including those of a personal nature, that Lewis shot is my most cherished March Madness moment of all time. That was the most talented Ohio State basketball team I had ever seen and still have ever seen. We're more spoiled now, but then, after years of average teams who either didn't make the tourney or didn't make noise in it3, getting to the Sweet 16 was a rare feat. 

And before that three-pointer, I had resigned myself to another tournament disappointment, even if I couldn't believe that this team wouldn't make it out of the Round of 32. 

Fortunately, the tables turned and the Buckeyes came as close to a basketball national championship as they ever have in my life. There would be no underachieving that season. 

The same can't be said for the 2010-11 squad. Their fate also hinged on a three-point attempt, though this time, it wouldn't fall. In a Sweet 16 matchup against Kentucky in an absolutely brutal region, top-seeded Ohio State had a chance at the end, but a William Buford three as time expired clanked off the rim and the Buckeyes lost by two points. It was just their third loss of the season. 

LaQuinton Ross looks like he's going to pants #3Come on, man

What made it so gut-wrenching was how much it seemed like that team was destined for at least a trip to the Final Four. If not quite the best team in Matta's tenure, I had never had as much fun watching Ohio State basketball as I had that season. When they were firing on all cylinders, like when they blew out George Mason to reach the Sweet 16 or when they were making Bo Ryan deal with it in the regular season finale, they looked utterly unstoppable. And unlike in 2007, there was no Florida standing in their path for a title. 

There was also no game-winning basket. Instead, there was an early exit. 

Of course, that one Buford miss didn't lose the game. His other 13 misses, however, certainly played a part. He was hardly alone, though; overall, the team shot under 33%. 

And come March, all it takes is an off night, or as Matta said on Selection Sunday, "one bad half of basketball" and the curtains suddenly, impotently come down on the season. And sometimes, a made field goal at just the right time bails a team out. 

We don't know yet what Craft's shot will mean in the long run. Ohio State's region is nearly the opposite in terms of strength as it was two years ago, and even if this year's team isn't as skilled as that one, an exit in the same round would be a harsh letdown. If the Buckeyes keep on winning, then maybe that basket will take on a new significance and displace Lewis' shot as my favorite three points in tournament history.

But this is what I do know. In just a few years, we may not be able to recall that Ohio State led by two at the half or that Shannon Scott got called for a technical early in the game or that LaQuinton Ross scored 10 straight Ohio State points. We eventually may not even remember that in the last five minutes of the game, Craft turned the ball over a couple of times, missed three free throws, and failed to hit a jumper with 30 seconds to go. 

What we will remember is where we were and who we were with when he connected on the game-winning shot. And we won't forget how it made us feel. Because no matter what happens next, every time we see that clip, we'll get a shiver down our spine and it'll take us back to that magical moment that only March can give us. 

"He better hurry... Puts up the shot... and he hits it!"

  • 1 Appropriately, Lewis was the top scorer and Ohio State was up 4 at halftime.
  • 2 So ingrained is that call in my brain that whenever I hear "Lexington", I think, "and we're going to overtime. In Lexington. HA HA!"
  • 3 Or they did both of those things and the results were later vacated.
39 Comments

Comments

Orlando Pancakes's picture

Always wanting to say first and things like that should be on the anti-bucket list; kind of like getting a tribal arm tattoo or asking a girl to marry you on the first date.

faux_maestro's picture

Inní mér syngur vitleysingur

JozyMozy's picture

Very touching read. Well done, Sarah. 

DallasTheologian's picture

Very well written. Great work.

el duderino's picture

Can't even count the number of times I have watched the replay of that Ron Lewis shot. In fact, I'm going to do it again now.
Awesome article, Sarah. As always!

"This is a very complicated case: a lot of ins, lot of outs, lot of what-have-yous."

BuckeyeChief's picture

Great piece; come to think of it, I had my daughters watch the Ron Lewis shot Friday night before tip off, just to share it with them.

 

"Damn I miss El Guapo"

jeremytwoface's picture

This is one of the better posts on here just because of all the buzzer beater madness... I've got chills

The first man gets the ((((Oyster)))), the second man gets the shell.

BucksfanXC's picture

You know what's hilarious? David Lighty was on that team. David Lighty was there for all but Craft's shot in all the buzzer beaters you mentioned remembering. Man was he on the team forever.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

tennbuckeye19's picture

Lighty was @ OSU forever, but he wasn't on the team last year for Buford's shot to beat Michigan State.
His last game was the 2011 tourney loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 following Buford's miss.

BucksfanXC's picture

Touche. I don't know if I can blame messing that up on forgetting Lighty wasn't there or forgetting that one in the midst of remembering all the others

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

northcampus's picture

By the time Craft leaves OSU, he may be one of the top 3 (or higher) beloved OSU basketball players of all time (if he isn't already).  The way he performs in class off the court, his hustle and leadership on the court, and his representation of blue-collar, middle-class Ohioans makes him pretty much the benchmark for what a college athlete should represent.
Craft may not have as much physical talent that Lucas, Hondo, or Jimmy Jackson had, but his intangibles are absolutely off the chart.  The shot to end the game yesterday was just a cherry on top of the sundae.

OSUBias's picture

I'll always remember this one because I was on baby duty and jumped/yelled so loud that I made my 1 year old daughter burst into tears of terror. I'm not normally very loud; I think it was the first time she's ever heard a full throated yell from me. I felt really bad (as bad as you can feel while celebrating and trying not to laugh at your kid), but I did stop to take a picture of her bawling to memorialize the moment. Saddest Buckeye fan in all of BuckeyeNation at that moment, for sure.

Shitter's full

OSUNeedles's picture

Glad to know I'm not the only one... I almost threw my one year old daughter through the ceiling when that shot went in. Between that game and the 2006 OSU v Michigan football game, it is really a miracle she is alive.

AndyVance's picture

The Lewis video reminds me that it's tragic that Gus isn't on the call during March Madness this year.

el duderino's picture

Agreed! CBS lost Gus and gained Chuck... Woof.

"This is a very complicated case: a lot of ins, lot of outs, lot of what-have-yous."

buckeyes763's picture

Am I the only one who spent the last six years thinking Gus Johnson said "bangs it home"  and not "brings it home"?

davmoe11's picture

My friends and I have spent the last 6 years saying "Bingo!"

Sarah's picture

I don't even know if Gus knew what he was saying. The call is basically a Rorschach test. You hear what you want to hear.

CincyBuckeye04's picture

My friends and I have always thought he said "Put it down!". Hilarious seeing how other people interpret his nonsensical cry of jubilation.

nightmuse's picture

I was in the arena with my family for Craft's shot wondering why he waved off DT until I saw that #31 was guarding him (Mr. I am going to ram into @ the TV timeout to show you how tough I am) and then the arena erupted and there was Craft waving at everyone to go play defense. The arena was electric OSU and IU fans going crazy.....with 2 ISU fans sitting next to us walking out before the clock hit zero...... and watching the ex-MSU player walk off the court without shaking hands .....IU fan saying "that's why he doesn't play for Izzo"  (Of course, after the towel fight in the MSU huddle and the PSU Payne-Dawson roommate brawl--I don't know)
I also remember the Ron Lewis shot because....we had missed the whole game and walked into the nearest restaurant to try to see the end and we walked right in for his shot and the whole place erupted....I think we got a round of drinks from it for a promise that we wouldn't leave until OT was over, which I like to call the Mike Conley show
 
But still love the Buzzer Beater by Evan Turner on Youtube with both OSU and UM announcers.....funniest clip ever....

faux_maestro's picture

OH NO!!!!!1
 

Inní mér syngur vitleysingur

nightmuse's picture

Where did he go.....where's the play by play guy.......CLASSIC:)

ATXbucknut's picture

I love how the ichigan player "defending" ET keeps his arms up in disbelief before, during, and after ET's miracle shot. He can't believe it. So neat to watch that over and over and over.

el duderino's picture

The amount of schadenfreude I get from this is ridiculous.

"This is a very complicated case: a lot of ins, lot of outs, lot of what-have-yous."

JakeBuckeye's picture

Does anybody know the team with the longest Sweet 16 streak? Wondering if we are possibly on top with four straight...

ATXbucknut's picture

Yes, I read in several places that OSU is the only current school with four straight Sweet 16 appearances.

JakeBuckeye's picture

Unreal, considering some of the flak Matta gets. And considering the fact that while he's considered a good coach, no one really puts him in the elite category. I guess a national championship this year would change that!

cal3713's picture

I don't understand the "current school" modifier here.  Does that mean the longest active streak?  What's the record for the most sweet 16s in a row during the 75 years of the tournament?

ATXbucknut's picture

I can't wait to see some more Craft magic on Thursday. Hollywood better be ready.

ATT2121's picture

One of the best pieces I've had the pleasure of reading. Thanks for bringing back some great memories of family and the moments that bind us all together. Thank you

 
 

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

dccgr's picture

Outstanding work, as always, Sarah.

AJW_16's picture

I was a freshman at Xavier when that game was played. I love my Buckeyes, but in the rare instances when XU and OSU play in basketball I pull for the Muskies. That was one of the most disappointing games I can remember as an X fan. It was also the last game for Justin Doelman, Justin Cage, and Brandon Cole, all of whom Matta recruited and coached during his run to the Elite 8 (his last year at Xavier). I remember there was a pretty emotional meeting between Matta and those three in the post-game handshake line; Matta was all class and really took some time to console his former players, espcially Doelman (who took it really hard).
Ouch. That one still hurts.

"Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you." 

buckeyestu's picture

Coach matta is very classy, and as far as i am concerned, an ELITE coach.

Buckeye Black's picture

My grandpa was on his death bed during this game.  My entire dad's side of the family, minus my brother, was hovering around him in the hospital.  We were watching the game, waiting for my brother to get there so he could say his goodbyes.  He showed up and talked to my grandpa, and he literally passed away a minute later.  He was one of the biggest, staunch, and stubborn Buckeye fans I've ever met and one of the reasons I am such a huge one.  After he passed the Oden foul occurred. We were all completely dejected.  Then Lewis hit the shot and and we all screamed, my grandma was sobbing by the bed, and she yelled out, "What!? What the hell?"  One of the most amazing/awkward moments.  I give that shot to my grandpa giving God a hard time about the Bucks not winning.

IBleedSandG's picture

I believe the '07 game was on St. Patty's day b/c I remember drinking green beer at a bar while watching the game. When Lewis hit the game-tying 3, i jumped up and ran around the bar high-fiving the other Buckeye fans that were there. That was a cool birthday present.

"You pick up the rifle and go as hard as you can possibly go."
-UFM

Spirit's picture

John Wooden's UCLA Bruins made a few more consecutive sweet 16's than anyone else. (Then, they went on to win the championships, too.) Their records will be more than difficult to break.

Spirit