Here's to Defense: Ohio State Throttles Iona, 95-70, in NCAA Tournament Opener

By Kyle Rowland on March 22, 2013 at 8:33p
Aaron Craft hounded the Iona Gaels all night in Dayton

DAYTON – Urban Meyer has been lobbying for the services of Aaron Craft during Ohio State’s recent surge. After Craft’s exploits against Iona, Vince Panzano might be the next coach on campus after the point guard.

During a first-half outburst that gave Ohio State a significant lead, the defining play was Craft diving headfirst, legs splayed into the scorer’s table to corral a loose ball. He flipped it to Shannon Scott who found Evan Ravenel open for a dunk.

It was one of six shining moments in a game full of steals for Craft. As the West Region crumbled all around them, Ohio State stayed on the script higher seeds have authored for years – resounding victories – dispatching Iona, 95-70.

“I just got a hand on it and was able to get it before it went out of bounds,” Craft said. “Luckily, Shannon was running behind me or else it probably would have ended up as a layup for Iona. It was a team play.”

Iona scored the first four points before the Buckeyes got into a rhythm, and when they did the Gaels’ moment of opportunity was slammed shut. Ohio State scored 20 of the next 22 points – a stretch that included a 15-0 run – to take a commanding 30-13 lead. Iona missed nine consecutive shots as the Buckeyes were flexing their muscle at both ends of the floor. 

But just as quick as the game looked out of hand, Iona fought back. Scott retired to the bench with his second foul. The absence of one of the Buckeyes’ best defenders allowed the Gaels to lock into its up-tempo offensive system. Iona outscored Ohio State, 20-9, with Scott on the bench and got as close as four. The Buckeyes scored the final six points of the half to lead by 10 at the break.

“We lost our focus and our concentration a little bit,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said.

During the first half, Ohio State outscored Iona by 16 points with Scott in the game. The Buckeyes were outscored by six without his on-court attendance.

The talk entering the game was about Iona’s offense, complete with the third-leading scorer in the country, Momo Jones. Instead, it was Ohio State that set the pace and had the high-scoring backcourt.

Deshaun Thomas scored 24 points, breaking out of an eight-game slump that had Buckeye Nation worried about his focus entering the NCAA Tournament. For now the bad thoughts have been put at ease. Thomas was 8 of 12 from the field, including a perfect 3-of-3 mark from long range. 

“He was much more relaxed, much more engaged,” Matta said.

The showstopper of the night, however, was Sam Thompson. If ever there was a night he earned the nickname Slam, it was March 21 in Dayton. Thompson finished the night with three alley-oops, a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds.

“An alley-oop is a great team play,” he said. “It shows two guys on the same page offensively. Shannon and Aaron did such a great job getting into the teeth of the defense, having the defense collapse, and just letting me do the easy part and finishing it.

“It really gives our team a boost offensively and defensively and definitely gives the other team something to think about.”

It got Tim Cluess thinking nights on end early in the week. After the draw on Sunday night, the Iona head coach peeked at some Ohio State game film and wasn’t exactly comforted with what he saw.

“I said to my coaching staff and our players that if (Ohio State) ever played at our pace, they may just really, really give us a problem because I thought they could run in transition better than we can with the athletes they have,” Cluess said.  “When they’re making shots on top of that, they’re really good, and they were doing both tonight, and we were sloppy with the basketball.”

Give the assists to Craft on that. The theme is tired and overused, but it’s unavoidable. Simply put, Craft is one of the best defensive players in the past decade in all of college basketball.

He finished with a season-high six steals and seven assists. Scott added a career-high 10 assists. The Buckeyes had 25 assists compared to 34 made baskets. Many of those came on fast breaks, where Ohio State held an overwhelming 34-11 advantage over Iona.

Jones had a horrific end to his college career. Averaging 23 points per game, he was limited to nine, tying a season-low, on 3-of-14 shooting.

“You could see (him get frustrated) a little bit,” Craft said. “He missed a couple shots and missed a wide open one late (in the first half). That’s going to frustrate anyone, especially when you’re used to scoring a lot of points.”

Said Jones: “Give credit where credit is due. I think (Craft) played good defense. I think I took some bad shots. Things just didn't fall tonight. Can't knock the guy. He played some good defense.”

Ohio State forced 19 turnovers, which translated into 29 points. Iona only shot 35 percent for the game. The Buckeyes are now winners of nine consecutive games.

“We have a lot of confidence,” Thompson said. “We know that if we come out and do the things we’re supposed to do on both sides of the ball, we could beat any team in the country.”

Another test awaits Sunday afternoon. Notre Dame and Iowa State have played with and beaten some of the best teams in the country this season. If history has any part in the proceedings, Ohio State will struggle. UD Arena has been a house of horrors for Matta’s Buckeyes. Even the lone victory, in 2006, was a grind-it-out win over a 15 seed.

On Friday night, he could breathe easy for once.

“Great thing is, we’re playing again on Sunday,” Matta said.



Comments Show All Comments

703Buckeye's picture

Really fun game to watch, EVERYONE was on fire! Iowa State or Notre Dame will be in for a rude awakening on Sunday.

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

VHX7's picture

Never thought we'd score XX points in a game this season.

larzdapunk's picture

Final score of XX-YY? Are we in scoring in hexavigesimal? :) 
Love me some #CRAFTWERK

740's picture

anybody know what time we beat the hell out of iowa st on sunday after they beat little sisters of the poor?

dubjayfootball90's picture

great game across the board man, looking really good to start the tourney

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

Alice in Aggieland's picture

Textbook definition of "beating them at their own game." 

Idaho Helga's picture

this defensive play shall live in ncaa infamy

osubuckeye4life's picture

Buckeyes showed the country, "THIS is how a real 2 SEED plays". 

Brutus's picture

Exactly. I haven't watched the game yet because I'm actually at the Philly regional right now and just watched GTown go down. I tried to avoid the OSU score and as I watched FGCU play out of their minds, it crept into my head that maybe Iona could muster up the same magic. Not even close.

Idaho Helga's picture

wow-eee some Craft luv from Sir Charles.  woof!

bhartman13's picture

And that's exactly how you want to start the NCAA Tournament!  Nothing like putting on an offensive show and letting Craft, DT, and Slam get some extra rest.

TheShookster's picture

Me and Nappy are getting crazy here in Indianapolis and the only thing going down smoother than the beer is deahaun's jump shot

He ain't even stretch doe!!

Squirrel Master's picture

Barkley just said he enjoys watching Craft play all day and then says Arizona will beat them. Keeps saying Pac-12 is the best conference.
Can he say anything that follows a logical train of thought? Damn it is tough to watch this crap. Going to CBS sports channel!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

Defiance J's picture

Yeah, just brutal to watch.

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

For the record, Kenny Smith, his partner in crime and stupidity, said that Anthony Bennett of now deposed UNLV is the most versatile player in the tournament. In the tournament. Seriously? These dipshits watched three college games total before the tourney began. Worst coverage ever.

MN Buckeye's picture

I assume everything chuck says is nonsense, so to me he is one of the funniest talking heads around. 

Geraffi's picture

ArronCraft = Johnny Hustle.
Charlie Hustle already taken. 
Great game!  Love the intensity for 40 minutes, never complaisant.

Joe4's picture

I was feeling great till you mentioned the George Mason game. Let's hope a high-scoring opening game is all this year and 2011 have in common.

BamBamBuck's picture

BAM, downs goes the first opponent! OH!!!


WiliestBuckeye's picture

We dodged a bullet there people. Iona is an amazing basketball team with so much talent that the score should have been reversed in the other direction. We caught on them on a day where they were unable to fully control their almost superhuman athletic ability, which happens from time to time, and we really have to thank our lucky stars that we didn't end up looking worse than Georgetown. Hopefully we can pull out another miracle on Sunday.

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

sloopy88's picture

Truly, Ohio State over Iona could go down as one of the greatest upsets in tournament history. 

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Whu....whu....what? I guess Sam didn't get the memo. He must have been too busy dunking on people. And he must have forwarded his messages to Ravenal who was also busy dunking on people. Did I get catfished or is this person more drunk than me?

collards's picture

I think you will see Sam continue to dunk as the inside players are not as strong, or as big as the big 10 players.  Evan is my favorite player cause in  tuff game, when he goes in, the game changes. he sets the inside screens an back screens for Craft to drive. he is the least appreciated Buckeye.
I thought vinnie really improved. The first defensive set he boxed out underneath and the third set he got the rebound. He is coming on.


EvanstonBuckeye's picture

Sarcasm font needed here. On a serious note, these teams, ridiculous though their defenses may be, aim to take your head off. We were great at putting them on the defensive tonight.

Spirit's picture

What planet were you watching from?


faux_maestro's picture

Is sarcasm really that hard to see in writing?

Your mom told me she wants a Dicken Cidar.

WiliestBuckeye's picture

Sometimes its funnier when people actually take you seriously though. You can count how many are a little tipsy pretty easily. :)

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

Jason Priestas's picture

Updated West Region bracket. Looks delicious.

thatlillefty's picture

gotta love the way it's playing out for us

LouGroza's picture

Yes, but Gonzaga is the #1 team in the nation!

BuckeyeChief's picture

Looks good...

"2014 National with it!!!"

Vabuck213's picture

Almost hoping ole miss makes it to the elite 8 so craft can completely shut down that Henderson fool. God that guy pisses me off

CALPOPPY's picture

But would Craft guard him? I thought he was a wing. But, I've never seen him play so maybe I'm way off.

I'm a hurtin' buckaroo.

osubuckeye4life's picture

Marshall Craft and his posse are going to tame the wild wild west. 

LouGroza's picture

Why is Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley on this CBS set year after year? They are very tough to listen to. I chose to smash my fingers with a hammer instead and it was far more tolerable.

BuckeyeChief's picture

I agree and the downvote you got was lame.

"2014 National with it!!!"

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Charles really hard to listen to considering he got paid to play. I would think the NCAA would ask him to stick with NBA. What's next? Reggie Bush calling CFB?

BME_Buckeye's picture

Great win Buckeyes. Way to avoid the the  #2 vs. #15 upset. I was impressed with the way we shared the ball today and played defense. Let's do it one more time so we can fly out to Los Angeles...

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


zbd's picture

The best phrase I've heard:  "Bring your game, not your name" ....meaning it doesn't matter your reputation, name, stats, image or anything but your game that day.

Buckifan4Life's picture

It was "high SAMma jamma" time! That's when you know the Bucks are having fun...

ih8rolltyde's picture

Slam is gonna be VERY good.

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

collards's picture

he needs to do it regularly versus the stronger big 10 inside players.


BuckeyeChief's picture

Man, what a game! I got both my kids to watch, start to finish. Slam is going to be awesome soon, here's hoping Deshaun is back next year...
Looking forward to the run, it's gonna be great!

"2014 National with it!!!"

Sean N's picture

Can't wait to see the Sam Thompson highlight video from this one.  Some nice work on his part.

Unky Buck's picture

For all of the defense that was on display, I think the most important thing was Deshaun getting going on the offensive end. Someone mentioned it earlier today in another thread on how this would be the perfect setting for him to get his confidence back...and boy did he ever.

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

armybuckinva's picture

If DT catches fire and stays hot, I think we end up playing for the title without a doubt.

captain obvious's picture

Deshaun never lost any confidence

I'm a friend of thunder is it any wonder lightning strikes me

Toilrt Paper's picture

His shots weren't as flat tonight.

Hovenaut's picture

That pic of Craft has motivational poster written all over it.

What a solid game for the good guys, what a difference getting out of the B1G for a little bit makes.

Hats off to Iona, thought they fought hard.

Good to see Matta unload the bench, and the last set on the floor hold the ball the last seconds. Classy move.

Eager for Sunday, like how things are unfolding. I have another busted bracket, with hopes only of my final four (Bucks, Louisville, Miami and Florida) holding up. But really ready to see this team just continue what's been a phenomenal past few weeks.

highwire's picture

Clearly I picked a great night to work...anybody know if there will be a replay? Go bucks!

Toilrt Paper's picture

A little bit of a misnomer. Only 6 of Thompson's 21 points came on "jammas". AND he had 10 rebounds!.

BullCityBuckeye's picture

Exactly.  Sam Thompson was ridiculous last night.  His dunks (off of the lobs) were some of the best I've seen all year and his floating layup was just beautiful.  Kid has both power and finesse and knows when to use them. This is going to be a fun tourney to watch.

Buckeyebrowny919's picture

I seriously don't know what has happened, but Thompson has just come out of a cocoon late in the season with a silky smooth jump shot. He has truly, i believe, the second consistent scorer we need with Scott's shot getting a little better / Craft having truly fantastic scoring nights / Ross coming off the bench with drain-o in his arsenal. I'm getting really excited for this tournament, but i will go tame into this second game and make sure Iona did not go into our head.

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

The effort Craft puts in is just awesome to watch!  Sam Thompson's dunks and ability to get up is outstanding!  Of course Dashawn has the ability to take over a game.  When all thress of these guys get rollin along with the other players this is a train that hard to stop!  Keep on rolling to the Final Four!! 
Let's go Bucks!

southernbuckeye's picture

Don't like the early start time. We have played without passion at that time this season.  Little worried........