With apologies to my girlfriend, I think I’m falling for Aaron Craft.
The sophomore point guard played perhaps his best game of his collegiate career, leading the Buckeyes to the Sweet Sixteen with 17 points, ten assists, three steals, and three rebounds for good measure. What’s more, if it wasn’t for Craft’s first half efforts, Ohio State may have found itself trailing by double digits early.
Ultimately, the Scarlet and Gray defeated Gonzaga 73-66 in the first ever matchup between the two schools. Craft certainly had some help, as Deshaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger both scored 18 points, and William Buford chipped in 13.
Somehow Ohio State was winning at the half, even though Sullinger sat out the majority of the first act with foul trouble. The Zags absolutely killed the Buckeyes on the offensive glass, especially in that first half, and ended up with a 31-26 rebounding advantage when it was all said and done. Props to Thomas, who provided Craft with some crucial assistance right before intermission by scoring twelve straight Buckeye points.
The Bucks stretched their lead to ten in the middle of the second half, but Gonzaga went on a 10- 0 spurt to tie the game (because heaven forbid my heart rate be below 200 down the stretch). That’s when Jared hit two of the biggest shots of the year and then followed that up with clutch free throw shooting at the end.
Despite the seven seed that the Zags received, the Buckeyes beat a quality team Saturday. The Bulldogs crushed Notre Dame 73-53, beat Xavier, Butler, and Arizona, and hung with Michigan State for 40 minutes during the regular season. They also had the size to frustrate Sully for the majority of the game, even though he hit those two monumentally important shots at the end.
I don’t think that the commissioner of the West Coast Conference will be sending the Big Ten any Christmas cards this year. The Zags went winless in three tries against the Big Ten (Ohio State, Michigan State, and Illinois), and St. Mary’s was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament Friday by Purdue.
In the stressful March game of surviving and advancing, the Buckeyes can put one weekend into their rear view mirror. It’s now on to Boston and the Sweet Sixteen to face the winner of the Florida State versus Cincinnati matchup.
So take a few deep breaths this week because things will certainly heat up again in a few days.