After a Saturday filled with routs and predictability for the most part, Sunday’s slate of third round games opened with Ohio State and Iowa State finally delivering the game of the tournament thus far, with Buckeyes point guard Aaron Craft giving us the closest thing we’ve had to a game winning buzzer-beater through four days.
For Craft, the game winning three-pointer was sweet redemption after the junior had opened the door for Iowa State by missing the front end of some one-and-one free throw attempts in the middle of a Cyclones rally down the stretch.
After hanging tough with the Buckeyes all day, Iowa State suddenly found themselves down 13 with just six minutes to go before a 16-2 run in a span of two-and-a-half minutes stunned Ohio State, with senior Cyclones guard Tyrus McGee carrying the load.
In the end though, it was a missed call by the officials and a couple of late turnovers plus missed rebound by Iowa State that did the Cyclones in and gave Craft the chance to win the game. With 1:41 remaining and Iowa State up one, Will Clyburn looked to have converted an and-one that would have given the Cyclones a chance to make it a two possession game. Instead, Clyburn was charged with a very questionable offensive foul (with Craft of all people taking the “charge”) that wiped out the basket and led to the Buckeyes’ possession that tied the game.
Melvin Ejim turned the ball over for Iowa State on the team’s next trip down the floor, and even though Craft missed a jumper on the ensuing Buckeyes’ possession, a failed box out for the Cyclones and massive offensive rebound for Ohio State gave them another chance at the potential game winning bucket, only this time with the shot clock turned off.
If the officials had made the right call (a blocking foul on Craft instead of an offensive foul on Clyburn) or if No. 10 Iowa State had been able to execute properly for just another minute, the already wild West Region would have got a lot wilder, as the only other West teams still alive are seeded No. 6, No. 9, No. 12 and No. 13, respectively. Instead, despite their near collapse today, No. 2 Ohio State has to be looking at the Region as theirs to lose.
In addition to Craft, junior forward Deshaun Thomas came up huge for Ohio State, posting 22 points and five rebounds while proving a significant presence on the defensive end.