Iowa State falls to No. 2 Ohio State 78-75 on a late Craft 3-pointer
DAYTON, Ohio – Iowa State came up a half-second short of yet another wild West upset. Making it hurt even more, the nation's leaders in 3-point shots ended up beaten by one.
Aaron Craft dribbled in place as the clock ran down and hit a 3-pointer with a half-second left Sunday, sending No. 2 Ohio State to a 78-75 victory and a school-record fourth straight trip to the round of 16.
Tenth-seeded Iowa State (23-12) overcame a late 13-point deficit by hitting 3s — the Cyclones' specialty — but couldn't stop the one that made the difference.
"We played our hearts out," said Will Clyburn, who scored 17 points. "It was a tough game and he made a tough shot. He made a great play."
Craft's missed free throws helped Iowa State catch up. He missed the front end of a pair of one-and-one chances and was off on a jumper from just inside the arc with 29.2 seconds left and the score tied.
The Cyclones knocked the ball out of bounds while trying for the rebound, setting up the final chance. Iowa State had a 36-22 edge in rebounding, but couldn't get that last one.
"We ended up outrebounding a more physical team by 14," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "The big one, obviously, was at the end when we couldn't corral that rebound. That gave them that opportunity to set up that game-winning play instead of us having the last opportunity at the game-winning shot."
On the final play, the Cyclones switched coverages to take away leading scorer Deshaun Thomas and put 6-foot-7 freshman Georges Niang on Craft, who decided to take it himself.
Not a bad outcome, Iowa State thought.
"He had a tough shot," said Korie Lucious, who led Iowa State with 19 points. "He hadn't hit a 3 all game."
The officials reviewed the play to confirm that Craft's foot was behind the arc when he shot. Lucious didn't come close on a long heave as the final half-second ran off.
Lucious stood on the court after the buzzer sounded, stung by the final half-second. Hoiberg was unable to make an opening comment during the postgame news conference, the pain etched all over his face.
After a few minutes, he composed himself enough to recount the game and thank his players.
"I told those guys I love them," he said. "It's heartbreaking for those six seniors who won't put on an Iowa State uniform again. But for what those kids did for our program, to put Iowa State basketball back on the map, is an unbelievable thing."
The Buckeyes (28-7) escaped Dayton — the scene of a couple of recent NCAA tournament disappointments — as the lone high seed left in the West. They'll play No. 6 Arizona in Los Angeles on Thursday.
No. 3 New Mexico, No. 4 Kansas State and No. 5 Wisconsin were knocked out right away, losing their openers. No. 1 Gonzaga joined them Saturday night, shocked by ninth-seeded Wichita State 76-70.
Perhaps it was fitting that this one was decided by a 3.
The Cyclones lead the nation in 3-pointers, with nearly 44 percent of their attempts coming from behind the arc. Defense has been Ohio State's foundation during its late winning streak, which included the Big Ten tournament title.
With Craft anchoring Ohio State's perimeter defense, the Cyclones had trouble getting open shots and missed eight of their first 12 from behind the arc. They finished 12 of 25 on 3-pointers.
The Cyclones also lost one of their best perimeter defenders and their second-best 3-point shooter late in the first half. Guard Chris Babb got treatment on his left leg in the final minute of the half and went to the locker room early. Babb sat on the bench for the rest of the game.
The Buckeyes pushed the lead to six points at the start of the second half, but Melvin Ejim's putback cut it to 52-51. He and Craft bumped into each other and traded words heading into a timeout with 11:43 left.
Neither side was budging.
Coming out of the timeout, the Buckeyes put together their best run of the game. Ross hit a pair of 3s, a layup off a steal and two free throws for a 65-53 lead with 8:18 to go.
The Cyclones turned to the 3 — both versions — to pull even. Lucious' three-point play tied it 69-all with 3:53 left, completing a 13-0 run. Craft missed the front end of a pair of one-and-one chances during that spurt.
Craft tried not to think about his previous misses as he watched the white numbers on the clock tick down and squared up to decide the game.
"If I miss, we still have overtime," he said. "So it's not as big of a pressure situation."
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