Senior Day Celebrations Rage on with Win over Spartans

By Kyle Rowland on March 9, 2014 at 6:45p
61 Comments

COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s an image seen so frequently the past four years: Aaron Craft diving on a loose ball. The Ohio State guard has pestered Big Ten teams throughout his career for always being in the right place at the right time. And on Senior Day, it was only appropriate that Craft would sacrifice his body once more to corral the biggest rebound of the season.

  1 2 F
NO. 22 MICHIGAN STATE 38 29 67
OHIO STATE 36 33 69

With 24.8 seconds remaining and the Buckeyes clinging to a one-point lead, Craft dove some four feet to come down with a loose-ball rebound after Michigan State’s Adreian Payne missed a potential game-winning three. Ohio State only made one of four free throws in the final 25 seconds, but held on to win 69-67.

Craft’s airborne body, bloody elbow and nearby basketball were “poetic justice,” according to Spartan head coach Tom Izzo.

“He’s all that’s right about college basketball. He’s a great kid,” Izzo said. “It’s been an honor to coach against him for four years. He represents everything that’s right. He had a great game on senior night, and he probably deserved that.”

Said Craft, matter-of-factly: “At that moment that’s what I needed to do for our team.”

Gary Harris’ desperation jumper from the top of the key clanged off the rim with two seconds left.

Craft finished with 12 points, seven assists, four steals – breaking the Big Ten career record – and three rebounds. Fellow senior Lenzelle Smith Jr. had nine points, eight rebounds and four assists, and junior LaQuinton Ross led the Buckeyes’ scoring effort with 22 points.

Player MIN REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
WILLIAMS 24 5 0 1 1 2 5
ROSS 35 5 1 0 0 3 22
THOMPSON 24 0 0 2 1 0 9
CRAFT 37 3 7 4 0 2 12
SMITH JR. 35 8 4 1 0 0 9

It was oft-criticized Amir Williams who provided the point which kept Ohio State (23-8, 10-8 Big Ten) ahead for good – a free throw with 37 seconds left.

“After all the memories [Craft and Smith] have in this building over the course of four years, and to end it this way, it is a great feeling for a coach,” Thad Matta said.

Emotion and atmosphere aren’t the sole factors in a game’s outcome. If they were, the Buckeyes would have won going away Sunday afternoon. Instead, an actual game had to be played. And as they’ve done so often during the intertwined Matta-Izzo era, Ohio State and Michigan State put on a show bordering on classic. 

“It means a lot to end like this,” Smith said. “Not just ending, but playing the Michigan State Spartans and beating them. This is a huge step for our team.”

The Buckeyes trailed by seven points midway through the second half and by five with less than six minutes to go. But Matta used a timeout after an authoritative dunk from Payne and delivered a message to his team focusing on defense. It was buckle down, or lose.

“We wanted to keep them in the half-court,” junior forward Sam Thompson said. “They’d gotten out and scored some points [16] in transition. We felt they couldn’t score on our half-court defense.”

Honoring the Seniors

Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. got a win in their final game at Value City Arena. The duo combined for 2,260 points, 1,007 rebounds, 863 assists and 408 steals.

Also honored were senior basketball managers Cody Anthony, Kyle Davis, Leroy Robinson Jr., Mitch Flowers and Jimmy Stanley.

In the closing sequence, No. 22 Michigan State (23-8, 12-6) was outscored 9-2 while committing five turnovers and making just one of five shots from the field. The Spartans only had one field goal in the final 4:30 and never scored after that. Poor free throw shooting from Ohio State kept the visitors in the game, though.

“Moving forward, that’s going to cost us a game,” Craft said. “It’s great we’re getting there, but we have to convert more.”

The Buckeyes only connected on two of their eight free throw attempts in the closing minutes. But the scouting report loomed large when Payne missed a three, leading to Craft’s heroics. In the pre-game shootaround, Ohio State practiced that particular play because Michigan State ran it against Wisconsin with the game on the line.

Matta guessed right that Izzo would pull it out again.

“I thought our activity was great,” Matta said. “Sam’s challenge of Payne’s three; he came out of nowhere. It was an unbelievable play. That was probably the difference for us. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot, but we did keep defending.”

The Buckeyes forced 21 points off 17 turnovers, making good on their formula that good defense creates offense.

“That’s the type of team we have to be,” Thompson said. “That’s what’s brought us success the past couple years. That’s what’s brought us success at times this year. That’s what will bring us success going forward. We’ve always leaned on our defense.”

Still, it wasn’t as if the Spartans came up small. They shot 43.6 percent from the field and made 10 threes. Payne scored a game-high 23 points, his latest in a long line of dominating performances against his home-state school. 

On multiple occasions, Ohio State seized momentum of the game only to have Payne – or Denzel Valentine or Harris – come down and steal it back by draining a three. In the second half, after the Buckeyes secured a five-point lead, Michigan State responded with a 12-0 run to silence the 18,809 in attendance.

Stops down the stretch, however, came often for Ohio State. It’s been a time period that’s plagued hard-luck Buckeyes much of the season.

“I thought it was one of our most consistent defensive efforts of the season,” Matta said. “That was a high-powered college basketball game. The biggest key for us was our half-court defense down the stretch to win the game.”

Izzo lamented Michigan State’s foul trouble. Appling, Harris, Valentine and Branden Dawson spent valuable minutes on the bench. All but Dawson (three) ended the game with four fouls. In previous weeks – and even months – injuries have been the Spartans’ kryptonite.

The pre-season No. 2 team in the country and unanimous favorite to win the Big Ten used 15 different starting lineups. That contributed to a limp to the regular-season finish line. Michigan State was 5-7 in its last 12 games.

Notes

  • OSU held MSU to one field goal over the final 6:27 and scoreless over the final 4:30.
  • With four steals, Aaron Craft passed Bruce Douglas of Illinois (324) as the B1G's all-time steals leader with 328.
  • OSU enters the Big Ten tournament as a five seed and will play No. 12 Purdue at 2:30 p.m. Thursday (BTN).

Aside from fouls and officiating, an unruly Ohio State fan got under Izzo’s skin as he walked to the locker room after the game.

“She was a jerk, to be honest with you,” he said. “You want the truth, or do you want me to lie?”

Sunday’s victory ended a two-game losing steak for the Buckeyes. They’re hoping one win can jump-start another memorable March. The past four seasons, Craft and Smith have been part of 117 wins. The other constant, besides marking W’s in the win column, is the ability to play their best basketball in the proper month.

Their final season has strayed off path more than once, though. A 15-0 start gave way to five losses in six games, then came a stretch of winning followed by another losing streak. The only consistency is being inconsistent. Now, Craft and Co. are poised to correct that trend.  

“We’ve had a couple big wins this year and we haven’t bounced back the way we’ve needed to. Hopefully we can build off this momentum,” Craft said. “But, at the same time, everyone’s starting off 0-0. It’s the most exciting time of the year.”

Said Smith: “Everyone knows what this team is capable of. When we come to play, we play good basketball.”


NOTE: Ohio State is the 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and plays 12th-seeded Purdue in Indianapolis at approximately 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

61 Comments

Comments

Mute's picture

that was painful but a win

go Wisconsin

+5 HS
TUNBUCK89's picture

go Wisconsin

 Ouch !!!.......How hard was it to say that ?

+4 HS
SavannahBuck's picture

Just can't do it...Will never root for Bo Ryan

+3 HS
BHT's picture

Root for Not Wisconsin then. I find it hard to root for Wisconsin, but not as hard as rooting for TTUN if needed (last year-I rooted for not TTUN). I have never, and will never root for That Team Up North. Also, I will never again root for Not TTUN after last year.

Knarcisi's picture

You don't have to say "Go Wisonsin". You can just say "Deal with it, Nebraska". 

+4 HS
ScarletGray43157's picture

Upvote for the first part of your post.

In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

+1 HS
Deadly Nuts's picture

I think i'm tearing up...

LEBRON

skid21's picture

Too bad we had to keep both of them in the game until the end. Would have loved to see Craft come out to a loud applause.

+2 HS
SavannahBuck's picture

Well, I don't know what team you've been watching this year, but never in my wildest dreams did that scenario seem possible

SavannahBuck's picture

Well, I don't know what team you've been watching this year, but never in my wildest dreams did that scenario seem possible

-1 HS
ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Yeah, that would have been cool, but I thought it was also pretty cool to see his trademark defense and hustle at the end to help us get the win. 

Class of 2010.

+1 HS
MN Buckeye's picture

Congratulations for the seniors, but I can hardly watch us shoot free throws any more.

+3 HS
TheSpiteHouse's picture

I mean, the free throw woes have to be psychological...

I mean, Amir's looked better than Q's toward the end...

Gray Box's picture
+14 HS
TheSpiteHouse's picture

Congrats to the Men's Tennis team!

+2 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

I can't tell if this result is more about the B1G being really good with loads of parity, or OSU being the most bipolar team in history. Just imagine though if we had an inside game and/or high-school level three point shooting. 

+4 HS
Killer nuts's picture

I love that we got to see vintage craft in his last minute in the Schott. Diving for rebounds, forcing turnovers, causing missed shots and showing his passion

+9 HS
Woodysghost's picture

It felt right. That was the way Craft needed to go out.

+4 HS
countrybuckeye's picture

It was special to watch on TV.  The hustle shown by Aaron Craft is a video that needs to be made and shown to all recruits, conveying the simple message, "At Ohio State, we believe defense is the rock we will build a NCAA championship upon."

Yes, we need shooters and scorers -- but this isn't the NBA -- we need this squad's suffocating D to be a part if every squad moving forward.  

That is the pure Truth.  

+2 HS
Knarcisi's picture

All out effort on D. Appling was held to 2 points. 

+2 HS
ScarletGray43157's picture

Really painful to watch basketball that is as ugly as that game was.  Still, glad for them to get a win in the home finale with a chance for a first round bye in the B1G tourney.  Honestly, Amir Williams makes me sometimes wistful for the days of Bill Robinson.  

In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

Killer nuts's picture

I thought it was a great game, not ugly, just a classic bigten battle

+1 HS
Buckeyebrowny919's picture

Did lenzelle play the 2nd half? He sure disappears doesn't he? And good god Williams couldn't catch a cold.

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

-1 HS
countrybuckeye's picture

Every single player on next years squad needs to schedule time to avail themselves of the "Micky Marotti Body Building Regimen."

Especially Amir.  

+3 HS
TheSpiteHouse's picture

I think Loving's game would improve big time if he gets stronger. His defensive IQ and quickness are excellent for  a freshman.

+3 HS
Buckeyebrowny919's picture

Extremely agree with both views. Craft might not have scored much but he added the glue and intangibles. Everyone will have to step up.

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

+2 HS
TraptnMI's picture

Size won't bring back his shooting confidence, and I don't know how he is going to do it, except play more minutes good or bad. I think he's afraid of f-in up and being yanked. Gotta Believe!

" It's real good whatcha done Anthony, real good ! "

WezBuck28's picture

Dammit amir will be back?!? I was hoping he would declare..

+1 HS
TraptnMI's picture

Bogus shit to say. Amir has consistently improved each year and is an excellent defender and offensive rebounding machine. I'm

totally impressed with his free throw shooting. I for one am excited to see his improvement over the summer for next season. Nacho Taco says "Get Some"

" It's real good whatcha done Anthony, real good ! "

mrspray's picture

Amir's defense is definitely his strong point. He has had some great showings in past years - I think especially games against Syracuse in the Elite Eight, and against Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen. If we get a few games like that from him and/or he stays out of foul trouble, we have a real shot.

WezBuck28's picture

He does shoot very we'll from the charity stripe.. although I have been unimpressed with amir..for a man his size, he should dominate in the paint..

Bailey458's picture

Great win for the Bucks.  Loved watching Craft dive for that rebound at the end, what a great final moment for him (plus the great defense).  I forgot did he shoot free throws at the end of the game? Ah who cares go bucks.

Adreian Payne has to be the most frustrating opposing player in the last few years, not because he is cheap in fact I think he is straight up.  He just seems to be draining tough shots against us all the time and taking the wind out of our sails.  I remember his recruiting when the Bucks wanted him (I think he grew up in Dayton or thereabouts) but he didn't want to live in a "big city" if I remember correctly.  He would be a great missing link for us if he were wearing S&G now.  Oh well always fun to beat MSU.

ibuck's picture

Do you suppose Payne might regret, a little bit, choosing MSU over OSU? And plays hard vs the Buckeyes just to prove to himself he made the right choice? Or is it all the times OSU has beaten MSU during his career that rankles him?

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

headina's picture

Emotional roller coaster ride

GO BUCKS

PittBuckeye's picture

Good looking or not it was a win this team needed. Hopefully they can ride that momentum a bit.

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Congratulations to our two seniors, great way to finish their regular season career.  They both owe Ross a steak dinner though.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

TheSpiteHouse's picture

Yeah, he's the only guy on the team who can make a pull-up jumper look natural. Big props to Thompson and Scott also for hitting shots down the stretch.

Zelle and Craft definitely brought the hustle and D this game.

mrspray's picture

I can't help but think how many more points Q would have if he had more of a green light pulling up on a three pointer. There are so many shots I feel like he could make that he just doesn't take...

buckeyes7222's picture

It's good to see the best perimeter defender the NCAA has ever seen go out by breaking the B1G steals record in his final home game.

+2 HS
MikeEagleBuckeye's picture

Living in the metro-Detroit area, I have some friends to tease tomorrow morning.

nm_buck's picture

this team is what inspired Robert Louis Stevenson

Knarcisi's picture

You mean Charles Dickens?

 I was going for ... These were the best of times and the worst of times. 

nm_buck's picture

No doubt... I'd still like to see less Jekyll and more Hyde in their offense.

Knarcisi's picture

LOL, I didn't know he wrote that. I couldn't name anything after Treasure Island. 

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

#B1GBasketball

Glad to see Craft end his final home game in style, doing the two things he does best - defense and hustle.  Man I'm going to miss that next year.  Getting 12 points certainly helps, too.  Good job guys, go get it done in the B1G and then NCAA tournament.
 

Class of 2010.

+1 HS
tressel12's picture

What a great way to finish Craft's career......being more of a defensive guy the defense Craft displayed the last minute of the game was just unbelievable. Obviously offense is important in today's college game and I won't deny the fact that the jump shot is something that I would have loved Craft to have but his on ball defense, heart, and intensity makes up for his sometimes lack of offense. The drive and heart was displayed by the dive for the rebound. The smarts was displayed by not calling the timeout (which would have been OHIO STATE's last and left them the inability to call one on the inbounds if needed) and taking the jump ball.

Craft's defense on Valentine and Harris at the end of the game was admirable. Not only did he prevent a good shot but he did it WITHOUT fouling which would have put them at the line and gave them the chance to tie the game. I don't care what anyone says he is going to be missed.

Lenzelle also made some big shots and it was good to see Q really use his versatility to his advantage. He made some big shots down low and the 3 over Payne was huge.

P.S. Glad to hopefully not ever play against Payne again.......Guy is a beast offensively. I can't recall seeing much more of a versatile player in the BIG10 outside of Evan Turner.

Because I couldn't go for three. -- Woody Hayes

+2 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Come on Wisky - I really don't like saying that ---- desperate times calls for desperate measures 

Lincoln's picture

Aaron Freakin Craft man. I am going to miss him so much.

Those back to back to back defensive plays to end the game were a fitting end to his career at the Schott. Also that dive to secure the loose ball rebound and then NOT calling timeout because he knew we had the arrow. So much mancrush.

Really hope he can figure out some kind of shot and go on to have an Eric Snow like career in the NBA, I would kill to see him get a shot at guarding Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Darron Williams, John Wall, and all the other great PG's in the NBA.

 

southbuc's picture

Sure seems Ike Craft would make a mean safety. Knock knock Urban...

 

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Fantastic way to send off the seniors in their last game in front of the home crowd!  Nicely done Buckeyes!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

rufio's picture

Man I am going to miss Aaron Craft.

+1 HS
Knarcisi's picture

Nebraska pulling away. 

Bolt's picture

Damnit I love Thad. A man who gets criticized for his Xs and Os (and by some assholes everything else in between) yet he calls the play he thinks the other team is going to run and then does NOTHING to toot his own horn, but instead praises his own player (Sam Thompson) for making a great defensive play in closing out on Payne...when it was clear he prepared his team for that play and Thompson left his own man to contest Payne's shot because he knew what was coming thanks to his coach.

BuckeyeVet's picture

Looks like we'll be playing Purdue on Thursday.

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."          - Groucho Marx 
 

Zimmy07's picture

Is it just me or did Thompson partially block the 3 on MSU's 2nd to last possession (I think Payne shot it).

Bolt's picture

I don't think he blocked it but he surprised Payne enough by being right there that it caused him to sort of double clutch it. 

+1 HS
ibuck's picture

OSU lucky to win that after missing 6 of 8 free throws in last 1:28. But great D and hustle to gut out the win.

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

OSUFlash's picture

Craft came into this league diving and went out diving. Hollywood couldn't have written it any better.

FT shooting is positively horrible and still no scorers other than Ross with Craft the only other Buckeye in double figures. This is not going to cut it moving forward however I think it's a real possibility we can win 2 games in the BIG 10 Tourney.

osuflash

Doc's picture

Does anyone have video of the break away with Craft and Slam when Aaron gives the ball up instead of the easy layup.?  To me that play was classic Aaron.  He could have made the bucket easily, but gave the ball to Slam to let him do what he does best.  Aaron Craft is everything a Buckeye should be.  Maybe we replace Brutus with AC.

"Say my name."

wademccoy's picture

Very painful to watch, they may get by the first game in the NCAA, but I would guess not.